Julie Markalunas Hall ensures “all means all” at Aspen Elementary
Speech language pathologist retiring after 22 years in district
Editor’s note: This article is the fifth in a month-long series on Aspen School District’s retiring teachers. New features will run every Friday in The Aspen Times through the month of June.
Some things are easier said than implemented, according to Julie Markalunas Hall. Like “all means all,” which the Aspen Elementary School speech language pathologist said has become a “catchphrase” for ensuring every students’ needs are meant in the classroom.
“It’s easy to say ‘all means all,’ but the implementation part is the hardest part — to make sure that all does mean all, and that you put your resources and your energy into giving every student the potential to reach their potential,” she said.
It might be hard, but the fourth-generation Aspenite said in her 22 years in Aspen School District, the district and the community have “always put in the passion and the effort. … They both have to do it together to provide the resources that kids need. We don’t ever cut them out and especially don’t cut them out from kids that need it the most.”
As a speech language pathologist, she has been one of those resources for students, in a way. But now it’s time for a new chapter, she said. Markalunas Hall is retiring from the district this year, though she won’t be calling it quits just yet on a speech language pathology career that spans more than three decades.
“Despite being a speech language pathologist for 31 years, I’m not ready for a rocking chair or even a cruise, no,” she said.
She plans on exploring new ideas in the field with younger children under the age of 5, a point at which “brain development is at its highest potential,” according to Markalunas Hall. Chasing new opportunities doesn’t make saying goodbye any easier though, she said.
“I love this job. It’s bittersweet. I have a smile on my face and tears in my eyes at the same time because it’s hard to leave everyone here, and the kids who I am working with,” Markalunas Hall said. “But I also need the room to explore. I need the time and the room to be able to try these new ventures.”
She’ll certainly miss the community and collaboration at Aspen Elementary School and the excitement of students making progress, she said.
“I think one of the best parts of the job, and some of the joy in this job, comes from when you see kids who mastered some fairly significant challenges with their communication and you watch them move through school and in high school you get to see them at graduation and they may be the one that’s singing the song, performing at the graduation ceremony or the commencement ceremony,” she said. “You just think, ‘What an amazing path, and how much they’ve done to overcome their challenges.’”
Collaboration and progress go hand-in-hand, too, she said. Markalunas Hall works alongside classroom teachers as well as other community partners like music therapist Mack Bailey, who said the two have teamed up for the past few years.
“Julie is just so good at what she does,” Bailey said. “For us to be able to work together to achieve those goals … there have been days where it’s been, ‘Wow, it just doesn’t get any better than that.’”
Markalunas Hall agrees.
“That collaboration — and to see how these kids are talking and singing, just so excited about hearing their voices, I would say that those are highlights,” she said. “Those are probably highlights of every single week that I’m here, and something that I’ll miss a lot.”
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Aspen School District will not mandate vaccines for students and doesn’t plan on implementing quarantines but is still evaluating mask policies for the 2021-22 school year, Superintendent David Baugh confirmed this week.