Latin teacher Allen wins Marian P. Kelley award


Hannah Silver

Over his years at Midtown, Allen has encouraged student interactivity through creative projects and tasks.

Hannah Silver

Each year, the Marian P. Kelley Award is given to a Midtown teacher who is a favorite among students, chosen by the Southerner staff seniors. The award originally noted Marian Kelley’s work at Grady High School in 1970, as she was one of the first African-American female teachers and the first African-American English department chair. 

This year, continuing the tradition, the award was given to Latin teacher Scott Allen, who has taught all of the Southerner seniors at one point in time. Allen has seen various teachers and mentors win the award and is now able to join them in the long line of award recipients. 

“I am very honored and humbled to receive this award,” Allen said. “So many of my colleagues are deserving of this award, so it feels very special that the Southerner seniors chose me.”

Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Southerner, Sayan Sonnad-Joshi, was one of the seniors who helped decide who would receive the award. Ultimately, the students chose Allen in recognition of his dedication to them and the school.

“He’s always been a teacher that has been majorly appreciated by the students,” Sayan Sonnad-Joshi said. “He’s done so much for the school and because he’d come so close to winning it in the past, we just thought he was the most deserving candidate.”

Senior Greta Gustafson, another Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Southerner, has seen how Allen impacts the classroom environment.

“We’ve all had him several years at Midtown, and he’s been a cornerstone [of] our high school experience,“ Gustafson said. “He always has a very positive attitude and makes us all better students.”

Allen feels like the ability to teach various students for multiple years in a row is a unique experience that not many teachers get. 

“The students make this such a great job to have; I’m so lucky that I get to teach many of the same students for several years,” Allen said. “I’ve taught all my seniors for three years now, and the vast majority of teachers don’t get that opportunity.  I have seen the kids grow and mature over the years. Some kids who were super quiet in ninth grade became outspoken leaders by twelfth grade.”

Before becoming a teacher, Allen was a social worker. During his time spent at that job, he saw students with various issues and struggles going on in and outside of school, and he didn’t realize how much social work would overlap with teaching.

“I wish someone would have told me how much this job can break your heart and to be prepared for that,” Allen said. “The stories I hear from my students about the struggles they face — the students I see who are clearly struggling with poverty, peer pressure, anxiety and depression, loneliness…I just want the absolute best for all of my students, and it’s so hard to see them struggle with things beyond their control. I saw a lot of that when I was a social worker, for some strange reason, I just thought all those issues were adult issues.”

Aran Sonnad-Joshi, senior and Co-Editor-In-Chief, has spent time with Allen through leadership positions he and his twin brother, Sayan hold. Both brothers are on the Georgia Junior Classical League (GJCL) state board, where they participate in leadership, attend conventions and do group work to help the Latin community flourish.

“We’ve spent a lot of time with Mr. Allen through this,” Aran Sonnad-Joshi said. “Mr. Allen was very supportive of our application process, and he helped us think everything through, along with planning our campaign to become part of the GJCL State Board.”

Allen finds that since the award is selected by students, it holds more meaning.

“The fact that the award comes from students makes it very meaningful,” Allen said. “A mentor of mine who won the Kelly Award is Jeff Cramer, retired science teacher and current cross country coach. I remember vividly his speech at the ‘Visions of the Future’ ceremony when he won the award. He talked a lot about how lucky he was to work and live in such a vibrant, supportive, and accepting community. I feel that way, too.”

Gustafson finds that sometimes in the class there can be more dull moments, but she appreciates how Allen seems to find energy in less interesting areas.

“Latin, as a whole, is interesting, but there are definitely some lulls in the curriculum,” Gustafson said. “Despite this, Mr. Allen keeps the classroom fun and energetic, and at the same time, he is a very supportive teacher.”

One thing that is of great importance to Allen is his students’ feelings of freedom and individuality.

“I want students to feel free enough and comfortable enough to express who they really are, I want them to feel confident enough to take risks, to be okay with making mistakes and to listen supportively to each other,” Allen said. “Watching that community flourish is the absolute best part of the job.”

Sayan Sonnad-Joshi appreciates the way Allen makes his classroom environment welcoming and fun.

“He is always very lively and makes everyone excited in class,” Sayan Sonnad-Joshi said. “He ensures that students are always able to do their best and be their best, which is why he was an obvious choice for the award.”

Allen has experienced many challenges during his time at Midtown but has seen how he has grown as a person, teacher and colleague through it all.

“During my time at Midtown, I have learned how to be a more empathetic person, how to be more flexible in my attitude and beliefs, become more resilient and be a better listener,” Allen said. “I’ve learned quite a number of great teaching ideas. The students have a way of letting me know what works and what doesn’t in the classroom — I listen to them, and learn from them, even if they don’t say anything.”