Gretchen Leif (GL): Tell us who you are—favorites, priorities, fun facts—and what your title is here at WSU.
Kristi Mally (KM): Well, I’m an Associate Professor. I have five kids and four grandkids; those would be my fun facts and my favorites! I love to read and be outside in the dirt because gardening and yard work give me the calm that I need.
GL: How would you title yourself?
KM: Mom, grandma, teacher, daughter, sister, life-long learner, dance-lover, lover of movement and people, and I’m creative.
GL: Do you have a mantra that you tell yourself before each class? Or even some sort of a repetitive action?
KM: Every night before bed, I do “GLAD”—grateful, learned, accomplished, delight. Something I’m grateful for that day, something I learned that day, something I accomplished that day, and something that caused delight for me that day. I try to spend time each morning journaling, but that doesn’t usually happen during the beginning of the school year. When I’m frustrated, thinking tiredly or unmotivated, I think of the children that my current students will eventually impact—they really matter to me and to the whole world.
GL: To someone who doesn’t know you and will never get the opportunity to sit in on one of your classes, how would current students describe you to them?
KM: I’m highly energetic. I have high expectations, I’m student-centered, engaging, interesting and motivating.
GL: What’s the first thing you do when you have free time, and why?
KM: Working out doesn’t count under my free time, so I like to read. I love to learn! I love learning new stuff and thinking deeply about new stuff. I read spiritually-based books on awareness and calling. My favorite book is typically whatever I’m reading at the moment.
GL: If you could create your own course within the education program at WSU, what would its focus be?
KM: I’ve thought about this before: it would be completely devoted to building resiliency in new teachers. This means self-care, being present, focusing on what’s important and what matters, how to communicate when you do or don’t agree with someone. It’s a service job, constantly giving and can be exhausting, which most new teachers don’t realize.
GL: What do you turn to when everything seems to be falling apart or going wrong?
KM: I turn to my faith. My faith shows up in a lot of different ways. Sometimes I don’t always turn to it right away, and I realize I can’t solve problems on my own. I’m pretty self-reflective, and sometimes I’m too hard on myself in that aspect. I also turn to exercise and movement and nature; sometimes I keep myself busy and use avoidance as a way to cope with distress.
GL: If you could list three of the most important characteristics that make up an exceptional educator, what would they be?
KM: Reflective, Open-minded and Student-centered
GL: Tell us your favorite quote and why.
KM: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” Maya Angelou. I want you to remember what I taught you, but how I make you feel precedes what I am trying to make you learn. “Choose joy” is another quote that I love. You don’t have to be happy to be joyful.
GL: How do you challenge yourself?
KM: By continually learning new things—I’m not afraid to learn more. This can be destructive because I’m never satisfied; I’m continually redoing lessons because there’s always a way to do it better than the last time. I’m always putting myself out there in the profession. I aim for venues that aren’t always in my comfort area.
GL: Any final words of wisdom for future educators?
KM: It’s about service and love.
- Stay out of the teacher’s lounge—that’s where teachers go to complain about students and parents. Teachers begin blaming things on the students. Remember that every single peer or colleague has a story you have no idea about. Don’t jump to conclusions about someone’s actions. They might be sick or haven’t eaten lunch yet, and that’s why their physical expression is off during class.
- Talk to your students! They just want to be heard. Don’t assume that when a kid is naughty, it’s just because they’re a bad kid.
- Be kind. Just be nice, ya know?! And take care of yourself—it’s not a luxury, it’s an absolute necessity. Sleep.
Dr. Kristi Mally is a highly respected professor by many students and faculty here at Winona State. I’m the type of person who learns most through role-modeling, which is exactly why I chose to interview Mally. I experience her energy and zeal in classes every semester, as well as her heart for her students. She doesn’t usually verbally state any skills (apart from the content) that teachers should have, but I can see how she models student-centered communication and passion for the content. Mally pours into her students by engaging us during class and genuinely caring for our wellbeing and learning. I am inspired daily by Mally and a select few other professors on this campus, and I hope future educators can gain insight from a great one!