Teacher of the Year Profiles » Allison Heath

Allison Heath

2023-24 Teacher of the Year: Prince George High School
Question-Answer Session
 
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How Long Have You Been Part of the PGCPS Family?

After starting my career in Greensville County Public Schools for one year, I joined the team at Prince George High School in 1997. Room A3 and the Publications Room were my home until 2014 where I taught English 9, English 10, and Photojournalism I, II, & III. In 2014, I made the decision to become a school librarian. While I initially struggled with not having my own class of kids, I now relish in the joy of having all of the students. 

 

Please Share Your Thoughts on Being Named Teacher of the Year & What This Recognition Means to You.

Initially, I was shocked that I received the honor of being named PGHS Teacher of the Year. While being in a “non-traditional teacher” role as the school librarian, there are so many colleagues who immediately showed their support and love.
 
Our jobs are about building relationships and putting yourself out there. As a librarian, I want to work with as many colleagues as possible. I will stop them in the hall with an idea, even present the completed lesson or project to them in some cases. I get that excited sometimes. Stepping into the classroom and co-teaching also gives me an opportunity to work with every level of the student body.
 
I am honored that my colleagues value and appreciate my vision for the school and our students. I share this with everyone who took a chance on one of my projects, no matter how big or small.

 

What Inspired You to Enter the World of Teaching and Education?

As a PG graduate, I was inspired by a long line of incredible PG educators. It goes all the way back to my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Hill at Beazley Elementary. She made every day of 5th grade magical and we all know how tough that can be. She possessed this amazing ability to mix high standards with a loving environment. I felt seen each and every day. I have carried that with me throughout my career. 
 
Anne Nall was my rock star Earth science teacher in 9th grade at Clements. Talk about standards and rigor. She expected your best at all times and all she had to do was look up at you from those glasses. You knew it was time to shape up. Pete Fisher brought current events and music into world history. There was never a dull moment in his class; he brought history to life.
 
Cindy Merrix and Jeannie Lubman inspired me in the English classroom at PGHS. Their love of the written word, wit, and kindness made me realize that I had a future in the classroom. Anne Roberts, my technology teacher, taught me to calm down and then I had the joy of teaching her sons and working with her daughter. Ultimately, it was PGHS guidance counselor, Bob Bailey, who convinced me that I was meant for a life in education. From the day I met him, he taught me about service and integrity as my SGA sponsor. It was about doing the hard work behind the scenes, not seeking the accolades and glory. I have practiced this philosophy with my students every day at PGHS. Students should recognize their worth through their efforts and dedication, not because they want a piece of paper that says “good job” or another checkmark on their college application.

 

Do You Have A Special Memory or Moment from This School Year You Would Like to Share?

Building a community of readers is one of my main focuses at PGHS! It is vital for students to find some sort of balance when it comes to the technology that is constantly in their faces. There is something so calming about watching an entire class sit and read during book speed dating or a book buffet. Many students will tell me that they are not readers - the reasons vary. AR ruined it for them. They are forced to read books that do not interest them. I tell them that they have simply not found the right book.
 
Recently, Mr. Jabar Smith brought his Honors Biology classes in for a book buffet on science nonfiction narratives. Most of his fourth block took the task in stride and excitedly looked through and read different books until they finally chose one to check out at the end of the activity. 
 
One student, Kyle McTernan, mumbled and grumbled that he did not like to read. He was not going to read. It was a song and dance I have heard many times. After the other students chose their books, I sat with Kyle and decided to start asking questions. Initially, he was reluctant. His guard was up…the answers all went back to not doing the assignment. Then, I started getting personal. What were his interests? Hobbies? I found out that he liked fishing, being on the James River, and loved crabbing on the Little River with his Paw-Paw in Hertford, North Carolina. I had the perfect book for him. I handed him Chesapeake Requiem: A Year with the Watermen of Vanishing Tangier Island by Earl Swift. It is a book about a way of life that is quickly disappearing and the watermen who rely on the crabbing industry to survive. He was sold.
 
One week later, Kyle, who “hated reading,” came in to tell me how much he was enjoying the book. He is even trying to see if he can plan a trip to Tangier Island with his Paw-Paw. That made my day. Who am I kidding? It made my year! I am so excited to see his public service announcement project for this book because now it truly means something to him. That is how you build readers - not by testing the students to death for points, but by connecting them to something that matters to them. Their choices matter.

 

Finally, What Do You Consider the Most Important Lesson You Help Students Learn?

There is more to the world beyond the walls of PGHS. Whether it’s finding the right book for a student for an independent reading assignment, reading for pleasure, or using databases for research, I want every student to know that the library is the foundation of a solid democracy. The library is where they learn how to access information. The library is where they learn how to use information responsibly. The library is where they become good citizens. The library is where they become lifelong learners and readers.