Allen came, saw, conquered to win APS best teacher

Allen+came%2C+saw%2C+conquered+to+win+APS+best+teacher

Mei Nathan

Scott Allen, APS Teacher of the Year, helps AP Latin students translate and comprehend a chapter from Caesar’s “De Bello Gallico.” Students find his commanding voices and gestures engaging in class. Outside the classroom, Allen provides resources for students, such as self-made YouTube videos.
FOUND IN TRANSLATION: Scott Allen, APS Teacher of the Year, helps AP Latin students translate and comprehend a chapter from Caesar’s “De Bello Gallico.” Students find his commanding voices and gestures engaging in class. Outside the classroom, Allen provides resources for students, such as self-made YouTube videos.

After taking Latin freshman year, Sajjad Ali, debated whether to continue studying the subject. Although interested in Roman culture, the AP Latin student found his experience in Latin 1 disappointing. Strong encouragement from upperclassmen prompted Ali to continue to the next level, where he was introduced to Scott Allen, who solidified Ali’s love for the subject.

Allen, a Grady Latin teacher since 2010, aims to encourage teachers and students alike to become more passionate about learning. Recognized for his work, Allen was named Atlanta Public Schools’ 2015-2016 Teacher of the Year.

“I think he really deserved it,” Ali said. “He puts so much time into this, is so dedicated and inspires the students so much.”

Allen’s colleagues express similar sentiments.

“I taught across from him last year, and I came to know him as a good friend,” said Vicki Vinson, a Grady math teacher. “He is one of the most amazing teachers I’ve ever seen.”

Last year, Grady’s faculty voted Allen Teacher of the Year.

“Honestly, I was really touched and humbled my peers here at Grady voted me Teacher of the Year,” Allen said.

Because Allen won Grady Teacher of the Year, he became Grady’s nominee for APS Teacher of the Year. Only having four days to apply for district Teacher of the Year, Allen quickly put together his application including essays, teaching material, and letters of recommendation from staff and past students. Thinking the other nominees especially qualified, Allen didn’t expect to win and spent the past summer preparing for the arrival of his second child, Jacob Allen.

The district named Allen a semi-finalist after reviewing every nominee’s application during the summer.

“Mr. Guiney called me and said, ‘Hey, you need to check your email, you just made it to the semi-final round.’” Allen said. “I was kind of shocked.”

Allen, having just returned from paternity leave, rushed to create a video of himself teaching and prepared for an interview and speech.

“Again, I felt kind of like I didn’t do as good of a job as I could have, so I didn’t think anything of it,” Allen said.

On the morning of Oct. 23, Guiney called Allen into the conference room. Allen, worried he had done something wrong, was astonished when he found Superintendent Meria Carstarphen waiting to congratulate him with balloons and a fruit basket for being chosen as a finalist.

“Once I was named one of the three finalists, at that point I felt like yeah, I’m going to go for it,” Allen said.

The next process was relatively simple; observers came unannounced to a Latin 3 class.

“I didn’t change anything, they just came in, and this was what we were doing,” Allen said. “The unit was on Roman philosophy, so we were talking about a strand of philosophy called Cynicism.”

On Oct. 29 at the Omni Hotel at CNN Center, Allen was named the APS Teacher of the Year. Allen gave an impromptu speech thanking everyone who helped him along the years.

“Just being the Teacher of The Year for Grady is wonderful, then becoming the teacher of the year for APS is even better,” said Theresa Monye, a Grady French teacher.

Though honored to have received the award, Allen worries that his numerous new duties, such as attending ceremonial events, could detract from crucial time during the week that would otherwise go to planning and grading.

“I kind of feel like my peers chose me as Teacher of The Year because I am a good teacher, and I can’t be a good teacher if I’m taken out of the classroom,” Allen said.

Much of his love of teaching stems from childhood.

“My father was a high school English teacher for 30 years in Fulton County and my mother was a special education teacher in Fulton County for 30 years as well,” Allen said. “They fostered an environment at home of wanting to learn and ask questions.”

It was Allen’s middle school teacher, Mercedes Huss, however, who influenced him.

“Not only did I learn so much about politics and history, but she did a really good job of teaching us to be nice to each other,” Allen said. “She really inspired me to be in some kind of helping profession, whether it be teaching or social work.”  

After graduating from the University of Georgia with a bachelor’s in Latin and Interdisciplinary Studies (Film Studies), and a master’s in Social Work, Allen applied for jobs in both teaching and social work.

“I got a social worker job first and that’s what led me down that career path for a number of years,” Allen said. “It was by far the hardest thing I’ve done in my life.”

In his time as a social worker, Allen primarily worked with foster kids and later with HIV/AIDS patients.

“After a while, it just sort of took a toll on me,” Allen said. “I was looking for something new when I got this opportunity to teach a class at Oglethorpe University, and I loved it.”

With encouragement from his wife, Allen pursued teaching, specifically Latin, a subject he had loved since high school.

“It’s a foundation for so much, not just for our language of English, but also learning about politics, law, different philosophies and different religious practices,” Allen said.

When he first began teaching Latin, Allen knew he wanted to cultivate an engaging environment for his students, and Allen’s “storytime” became a part of his classroom routine. In class, Allen spends the last 15 minutes of class retelling stories about Roman history and myths.

According to Allen, storytime was inspired by his high school Latin teacher, Nancy Goodyear.

“She was a great storyteller,” Allen said. “It was the history of Rome, but her version of the history of Rome.”

Along with storytime, Allen incorporates vocabulary games and readings of classical texts in his teaching.

“We don’t ever do just one thing,” senior Jasmine Sutton said. “Whether you’re a visual or auditory learner, you’re getting a good education.”

Allen credits the development of his diverse style of teaching to Grady Assistant Principal Carrie MacBrien.

She said, ‘you have got to do a better job of showing pictures and using audio, and hitting all those areas’,” Allen said. “She did it a very constructive way, and I became a much better teacher because of her advice and guidance those first several years I was here.”

MacBrien, while flattered by Allen’s memories, recalls Allen already had great self direction in class.

“He was very interested in being the very very best he could be for all of his students.” MacBrien said.

Although Allen is beginning to prepare his application for the statewide competition, which is due Dec. 4., his primary focus will always be on his students.

“I love fostering that connection between the students –– leading them to a certain point, seeing them ask all these questions and thinking a little more deeply about things.” Allen said.