The Best Non-Mom Teacher You Could Have
By Timotea Garcia-Mendez
Kristin Mailhiot, the once oh-so-scary Vice Principal of Arizona School for the Arts, now resides as the still honest but strongly supportive pillar of the Senior teachers. Ms. Mailhiot also serves as a guiding light and knowledgeable resource to the high school seniors through Environmental Science and their Capstone projects. As she reclines back in her chair, she reminisces on both her personal journey and her journey as a teacher up to this point. Now in her 21st year at ASA, she considers the school home and “like a family” where she enjoys “the respect as a professional and the trust” she receives to teach, based on her experience, the way she knows is best for her students. In fact, even Señor Miranda, a long-time friend and coworker of Ms. Mailhiot, claims that one of the qualities that he admires most is her overwhelming passion for “students with exceptionalities and students that she thinks need help.” However, Ms. Mailhiot did not always want to be a teacher and did not even study to become a teacher in college. While looking serious, yet sentimental, she recalls back to her childhood when we she believed she would become a veterinarian and even volunteered at an animal hospital. Although that changed by the time she went to college, she maintained her passion for animals by studying marine biology.
And now, you might be wondering, how did she become a teacher? With a look of genuineness and sincerity in her eyes, Ms. Mailhiot claims that her teaching profession chose her and that her love of teaching stems from her love of “explaining things to people that might be complex, helping them understand and break down big ideas into things that are easy to understand.” She has also been inspired by teachers and mentors throughout the different stages of her life that persuaded her to join the education field. In high school, she remembers having exceptional science teachers, and in college, she also mentions some of her professors that especially inspired her to become a great educator. But above all that, Ms. Mailhiot references Ms. Fregulia, ASA’s Head of School and CEO, as her biggest role model. She says that Ms. Fregulia’s focus on students and sense of education is unlike any other she has ever seen, and that inspires her to be the best educator she can be every day. And while Ms. Mailhiot seems like she is constantly very confident, she does admit, with a big hearty laugh that rocks her back and forth in her chair, that she “always” has things to work on about herself. When asked if she could live in any time period, she responds with, “I think I’m pretty happy right where I am” and that she would not want to live any other life. She even goes so far as to claim her relationships with her children and with her students and their families as the thing she is most proud of in her life, explained simply by saying, “I’m a really relationship oriented person.”
Ms. Mailhiot laughs about how her life was “not at all” like she expected it to be when she was younger. She leans forward, forearms resting on the table, almost as if she is about to share a secret, when she imparts that life is actually a whole lot better than what she could have ever imagined. Just like how Ms. Mailhiot admires and wishes she could be majestic and grand like one of her favorite animals, the beautiful bluefin tuna, she also acknowledges that she is seen as a strong and persistent turtle, according to Ms. Maline, or a big mama bear, according to Señor. And slowly but surely and passionately, all the while gathering up her little bear cubs and setting them on the right track, she is walking toward creating a better version of herself and the world around her.