By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Jul 12, 2015 at 9:28 AM Photography: Royal Brevvaxling

When Alissa Gonyea isn’t rescuing wildlife, teaching in Milwaukee Public Schools or parenting her two sons, she's behind the bar – or serving– at Blue Jacket, 135 E. National Ave. recently stopped in at Blue Jacket to chat with Gonyea about teaching, traveling, craft cocktailing and how she won a car.

And no, it was not like this: How many years have you been a bartender?

Alissa Gonyea: I very recently started bartending at Blue Jacket, but I worked in Madison as a bartender for 15 years at Genna’s, Paul’s Club and the Argus. All of those places are still open today and are really great.

OMC: Are you from Madison?

AG: I grew up in Altoona, which is near Eau Claire, but I went to college in Madison, at Edgewood College, and got a degree in early childhood education. Before college, I lived in a few different places, including the Wisconsin Dells where I worked at Noah’s Ark.

OMC: What did you do there?

AG: I was a lifeguard. I love to swim. I grew up with a pool in my backyard, but I never had any formal swimming lessons – other than my dad dropping me in the deep end of the pool. I loved working at Noah’s Ark and was awarded "Arker Of The Year." I won a new car.

OMC: Really? What kind of car?

AG: It was a Hyundai Scoupe. It was pretty exciting. Noah’s Ark had more than 500 employees at the time.

OMC: What made you "Arker of the Year?"

AG: I got the most nominations from guests for being the friendliest and most courteous employee. I worked primarily in the kiddie pool and I loved it. I brought my Little Mermaid and Spiderman band-aids with me – slapped ‘em on the kids as necessary – and won a car!

But seriously, it was really an important moment in my life. After I won the car, the owners told me I was really good with kids and they suggested I go to Madison and become a teacher. They really believed in me. I hadn't experienced a lot of that. And so I did just that – I went to Madison and became a teacher.

OMC: How long have you taught for Milwaukee Public Schools?

AG: Eight years. I am currently a classroom teacher at Maryland Avenue Montessori School for K3, K4 and K5 kids.

OMC: What do you like about teaching little kids?

AG: I love everything about it. I feel like I’m there when they’re "waking up." I witness so many "a-ha moments." I really love their curiosity, their questions. For some reason, I can handle a million questions from children, but not many from adults.

OMC: You have two children of your own, right?

AG: I do. I am the legal guardian of my nephew, Connor, and have been since he was 6. His mother – my sister – passed away unexpectedly and so I raised him. He just finished his first year at Edgewood College. He's a really great kid. I also have a 7-year-old son, Joby. He's a great kid, too.

OMC: What do you like about tending bar?

AG: It’s fun. People are generally happy when they go out. And it’s different from my day job. I love being around kids all day, but it’s also nice to spend time with adults. Although I've found that kids are often more polite than adults. At least the kids always push in their chairs, adults – especially after drinking – not so much.

OMC: What’s you favorite drink on the Blue Jacket menu?

AG: The Run For The Roses is really good. I like to make it and drink it. It involves bourbon and muddling and I love both.

OMC: So what’s on your "bucket list?"

AG: For me, it’s all about traveling. I want my kids to see the world. And I’m not talking about staying at a Marriott in India or an all-inclusive resort in China. I want them to meet real people, eat authentic food and see as many things as possible.

One of the most important goals I have as a mother and a teacher is to create positive memories. I used to have a quote in my classroom by Rickie Lee Jones that said, "You never know when you're creating a memory" and it’s so true. 

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.