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A Good Egg: Wylie Native Makes Way from Custodian to Teacher

9/30/2022

Teacher and students.
Mr. Allen and his sixth grade math class.

What started as a temporary job as a custodian turned into becoming one of the most popular teachers in the school. Known for his relationship building, stories and chicken costume, you can’t walk down the halls of Al Draper Intermediate without running into someone who has a story about sixth grade math teacher Aaron Allen…and his chicken suit.

“Connecting with the people around me is important to me,” Mr. Allen said. “Every story has a lesson. I like to use stories to help those around me,” Mr. Allen said. In only his second year as a certified teacher, Mr. Allen has been at Draper since it opened in 2007.

After a stressful four-year stint at a telecommunications company, Mr. Allen was looking to fly the coop. His mom, Judy Allen, known to most in the district as Miss Judy, suggested he join her at Wylie ISD. Miss Judy was a custodian at Wylie High and told her son that the maintenance and operations department was hiring. Mr. Allen accepted a position as a floater custodian at Draper while he tried to figure out what his next path would be. He became more than just a custodian at Draper. He was a friend, someone the students and staff could talk to. 

“I love working with kids and staff, building relationships,” Mr. Allen said. “They acknowledged me as more than just a custodian. The staff always had my back.”

Teacher helps student.Sixth grade math teacher Mr. Aaron Allen is known for his ability to connect with students and build strong bonds.
Teacher talks to class.
On Wylie Way Day, Mr. Allen uses story-telling to talk to his students about kuleana and civility.

After observing how students flocked to him, several teachers asked him if he ever considered becoming a teacher. He hadn’t -- until they put the idea in his head. So Mr. Allen enrolled in Collin College and moved into the role of paraprofessional at Draper while he attended school himself. He started in the gym as a para, then was moved to math classes. After one year as a paraprofessional, the school was seeking to introduce new electives. He was assigned to help another teacher with the new college and career readiness course.

“I had so much fun with it, she eventually handed the class over to me,” Mr. Allen said. Those relationships he made in that class long ago are still meaningful years later. “I’ll run into my old students in the store and they’ll ask if I still teach the college and career course,” Mr. Allen said. “Then they’ll ask if I still have the chicken suit!”

Teacher points to yearbook.
Many of Mr. Allen’s stories involve his chicken costume. He even wore it in his yearbook photo one year.
Page in yearbook.
At the top of the page, Mr. Allen wears his chicken costume for his yearbook portrait.

On the very first day of the school year, Mr. Allen tells his students about the infamous chicken suit. They’ve not seen it, but have heard his stories about it. On one occasion, he crashed a game of dodgeball taking place in the gym.

“I went into the gym office and put the chicken suit on,” Mr. Allen said. “I ran out and grabbed balls and started throwing them at the kids and the coach --  then I just left.” What he recalls most about that day was how two girls were sitting in the stands, not participating because they were having a rough day. Then after Mr. Allen’s silly chicken escapade, their spirits brightened and they chose to join in on the fun. “That’s why I like to tell stories,” Allen said. “Every story has a lesson.”

Mr. Allen transferred to Texas A&M Commerce where he received his Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies. Dr. Al Draper, a close friend of the Allen family, attended his graduation.

Photo of teacher and Mr. Draper.
Mr. Allen is photographed with a good friend of his family’s, the school’s namesake, Dr. Al Draper. “While I was doing the college classes and working, he was always checking in with me and seeing how it was going,” Mr. Allen said. 
Teacher's trophies.
Showcasing his ability to form strong relationships, service awards align the shelves in Mr. Allen’s classroom.

“While I was doing the college classes and working, he was always checking in with me and seeing how it was going,” Mr. Allen said. “I was happy that Dr. Draper was there, but even prouder that my dad was able to come. He had been battling liver issues and heart issues for a long time. The following year, my dad passed away.”

Now in his second year as a certified teacher, he is continuing to make a positive impact on his students in his sixth grade math class at Draper.

“He makes learning fun,” sixth grader Wilson Bautista said. “Like today we are learning integers with these red and yellow chips. He makes us understand math which makes it so much easier.” Another one of Mr. Allen’s students, Wilson Bautista, said Mr. Allen is very creative and funny. “I give him a 10 out of 10,” Wilson said.

Teacher helps student.
Mr. Aaron Allen assists sixth graders Wilson Bautista and Christian Ramirez with integers in his math class.
Teacher stands in doorway.
Mr. Aaron Allen is known for his chicken costume and for building relationships with staff and students.

During the second term of each school year, Mr. Allen hatches an idea that pits his classes against each other in a contest.

“I spent $80 on that chicken costume one year for Halloween to wear it one time,” Mr. Allen said. He wanted to make use of the expensive yellow feathered costume. “The deal is that I will wear the chicken costume while I teach for the winning class,” Mr. Allen said.

Draper’s campus nurse, Beth Thomas, has worked with Mr. Allen since the school opened 16 years ago. She said that he has been there for her in so many different situations.

“One time a student had put a zip tie around his forearm really tightly,” Nurse Thomas said. “I couldn’t get it off with scissors. I knew Aaron would have a tool to help.” Sure enough, he managed to get the zip tie off with a pair of needle nose pliers that he used to break the self-locking head off.

Another time that Mr. Allen was literally a life-saver was when a student went into cardiac arrest. Mr. Allen was a paraprofessional in the gym when it happened.

“When I arrived to assess the situation, he was seated on the floor by the student and helped me administer CPR,” Nurse Thomas said. “He was instrumental in saving the life of this child.” She said that what strikes her the most about Mr. Allen is his connection with kids.

“Regardless of his role, even as he moved to different positions on campus, he is always building relationships,” Nurse Thomas said. “To watch him set that goal [of becoming a teacher] and stay here and stick with it is impressive.” Nurse Thomas said that Mr. Allen is just a fun guy to be around. “He makes everyone laugh. One time he directed traffic in a chicken suit!” Nurse Thomas said.

Teacher in window of door.
Mr. Allen has been at Draper Intermediate since it opened in 2007 --  first as a custodian, then a paraprofessional and now a teacher.
Teacher helps students.
Mr. Aaron Allen teaches sixth grade math at Draper Intermediate.

When he was still a custodian, Mr. Allen received a shoutout in Dr. Vinson’s blog about students finding positive relationships with an adult at school. Draper surveyed every student asking them which adult on campus they had a meaningful and positive relationship with. Mr. Allen was named on 26 of the student surveys as the adult they could talk to and have connected with. His advice to students trying to figure out what they want to do for a career is to look at all possibilities.

“Explore all options that are out there,” Mr. Allen said. “Join clubs to learn about what is out there. I was raised not to work at a job you dread. I made it my own. Look for highlights and positives at work. Surround yourself with support.”