PRAIRIE GROVE -- Mallory Alderson, new assistant principal for Prairie Grove Elementary School, had to leave her love for the color pink at the door when she started her career in education.
She was teaching a gender-specific classroom in Siloam Springs and had 22 first-grade boys.
It was OK, though, because while she loves pick, she also is a "huge" Razorback fan and used the UA mascot as the theme for her all-boy room.
"It definitely was a learning experience for sure," Alderson said. "There are definitely differences in how boys and girls learn. I learned how to keep boys engaged."
She said her class had a lot of movement that year.
Alderson, 33, grew up in Prairie Grove, graduated from Prairie Grove in 2006 and attended the University of Arkansas. She has a bachelor's degree in education from the UA and a master of arts degree in teaching from Arkansas State University. She completed the online building level principle program of study.
Alderson taught in Siloam Springs for one year in 2013-14 and then taught at Root Elementary School in Fayetteville for the next eight years. During that time, she taught fifth grade for one year and then moved to first grade for the remaining seven years.
Alderson is following in the footsteps of her parents, both educators, though she said it was not her initial plan. Her mother, Missy Hixson, was with Prairie Grove schools for 22 years and now is assistant director at Northwest Arkansas Education Service Cooperative in Farmington. Her father, Charlie Abernathy, also worked at Prairie Grove, and now is with Rogers School District.
"I was the one in my mom's classroom playing school while she was there every night," Alderson said. "I tried to do everything I could not to be a teacher. I saw the struggles. But I came back to it. I knew in my heart what I was meant to be."
She said some of the other career choices she considered along the way included being a hairdresser and a nurse. However, after taking a course in anatomy, she said she knew nursing wasn't for her.
She loved being a classroom teacher and loves working with children, Alderson said.
"I love kids. I love seeing the lightbulb go on and the excitement they have when they get it," she said.
Alderson first applied for an administrative position at the elementary school in 2019 but was not offered the position. Becky Ramsey, also a Prairie Grove graduate, was hired in 2019-20 as a co-principal along with then Principal Brenda Marshell. Marshell retired and Ramsey became the principal, looking for someone to fill an assistant principal position.
Ramsey said the district received 45 applications for the assistant principal position and the school's leadership team screened 12 of the applicants and selected six candidates to interview face-to-face.
Ramsey said Alderson was the "perfect choice" for the position for many reasons.
"She is a proud Prairie Grove alumni and cares so much about our school and community," Ramsey said by email. "She is committed to our students, parents, and staff, and is a lifelong learner that continues to grow professionally."
Ramsey said Alderson brings a wealth of experience to the staff, shares innovative ideas to engage students and believes in building relationships with all stakeholders.
"We are absolutely thrilled to have Mrs. Mallory Alderson as the Assistant Principal at Prairie Grove Elementary," she said.
Alderson said she's glad it happened the way it did because she's already learned a lot from Ramsey and looks forward to continuing to learn from her.
"I've learned the importance of having a positive attitude and being a problem solver," Alderson said. "I've learned the importance of being that advocate and that cheerleader for kids. And definitely having flexibility, especially this year."
Alderson said it's been a neat experience working with Ramsey because both are "Prairie Grove girls coming back home."
One challenge this year, Alderson said, has been working as a first-time administrator amid the covid-19 pandemic. She points out, though, the pandemic challenges are new for everyone else as well.
"It's the first year for me but even the veteran administrators never had to deal with this so it's taking creative thinking and thinking outside the box," she said.
She said she's proud of the teachers and students at the elementary school and how they have been handling the pandemic.
"It's gone above any expectations that I ever had," she said.
Outside school and family time with her husband and two children, Alderson said she usually can be found at a ballfield or gym because her son plays traveling sports. She likes to "hang out" with extended family on both sides and attend Razorback games.