Alton has long history with Anoka-Hennepin School District
As a student at the University of St. Thomas, Jill Alton had many interests. While pre-law and communication were at the top of her list, the Blaine High School (BHS) graduate said her first loves are music and theater.
“Finally my counselor told me I could not be there forever and I had to make a decision,” said Alton, a new assistant principal at Anoka High School (AHS). “I had always taken English classes, so I thought, ‘what can I do with this?’ I thought back to one of my favorite teachers of all time, Pam Zimba, who teaches seventh grade English at Northdale Middle School, and decided I wanted to be just like her.”
Alton started her career with the Anoka-Hennepin School District, first as a substitute English teacher at Coon Rapids Middle School. That moved into a full-time job teaching seventh grade English. Alton, who has been very involved with music and theater at BHS, was also a theater director for 14 years. (Alton had the opportunity to do her student teaching at AHS with her high school director, Kent Knutson, who had transferred to Anoka.)
The program at Blaine had a big influence on Alton, who continues to be involved with community theater and tries to do one show a year. She has performed in shows at Lyric Arts in Anoka as well as with community theaters in Forest Lake, Minnetonka and Cross Community Theater. In addition to performing, Alton has also directed in Anoka at Forest Lake.
After many years in the classroom, a friend told her she thought Alton would make a good instructional coach. Although it was hard to leave the classroom and theater behind, Alton thought she would give it a try for a couple of years and then return to the classroom. Alton earned her graduate degree in teaching and learning from the St. Mary’s University.
“I thought it would be a good opportunity to see other people’s classrooms and collaborate with other teachers,” Alton said. “I thought I would come back into the classroom as a stronger teacher.” A discussion with a supervisor opened yet another path in education to Alton. The supervisor told Alton she saw leadership qualities in her that would make a good administrator. Alton had never thought about becoming an administrator, but she found a great program at the University of Minnesota and pursued her administrative license.
“I had missed being in and attached to a school when I was an instructional coach,” Alton said. “And I missed working with students. As an administrator, you have the ability to be a role model for students and help them with difficult situations in a different way than you can when you are a teacher. I enjoy working with high school students because you are able to guide them as they prepare for their future.”
After an administrative internship at Jackson Middle School, Alton worked at Champlin Park High School for four years. Beginning this year, she will work at AHS. Alton is excited about working with the administrative team, many of whom she has worked with in the past.
“The AHS administrators have a nice mix of experience,” Alton said. “Many of us have strong middle school backgrounds, which helps us in our work to make high school as successful as possible for students. I’m really excited to be here.”