Connections, Relationships Matter to Allison Reid, Wake County’s 2014 Teacher of the Year

Allison Reid
By Jeanne E. Fredriksen

“What you see is what you get with me,” declared Heritage High School English teacher Allison Reid, Wake County’s 2014 Teacher of the Year. After winning the title in May, she’ll represent Wake County for the state Teacher of the Year title.

What you get with Reid is an outgoing, confident, personable woman who is passionate about connecting with her students. Nominated by her peers for the annual honor, Reid is humble about the title but eager to use it to spread good news to the community about Wake County teachers.

“I’m a good teacher. But the best teacher? That’s crazy! There’s always somebody better than you,” Reid said. “But that is to say I hope I can represent the teachers of this county well because I want to articulate how we all feel about the work we do and the importance of the work we do.”

Inspired by her high school theater and English teacher, Reid obtained her undergraduate degree in Theater Education from UNC-Greensboro. She has taught Theater, but she loves teaching English.

After college, she taught for five years in Winston-Salem before making the decision to stay home and raise a family. During those 10 years, she launched a successful window coverings business and taught methods and technology at industry seminars.

“I’d had great relationships with colleagues in the design industry, but not with clients,” she said of her experience. “I didn’t feel like I was affecting their lives in a way that was of enough worth. It was time to get back in the classroom.”

On a Friday in August 2011, she called a former boss, who referred her to Mark Savage, Heritage High’s principal. He needed an English teacher, so Reid spruced up her resume and submitted it immediately. On Monday, she received an interview request. On Tuesday, she interviewed. On Wednesday, she received a job offer, and on the following Monday, she was in the classroom.

“I just love being here, and I love working with my kids,” Reid said. “My administration is super supportive.”

Having spent time running her own business enhances her world view and allows her to integrate that into the classroom.

“When I ran a business, I understood that if I don’t make a good impression, I don’t get the job. If I don’t meet the deadline, that’ll be my last job with that client,” she said. “I know that relationships matter. I teach that to my kids.”

Teaching American literature to juniors or British literature to seniors, she combines the business, literary and writing worlds in an attempt to prepare her students for life after high school.

“My kids all need to know how to take a piece of writing that is difficult and break it down, glean meaning out of it, and apply it,” she explained. “I care that they know how to do that. I know how important and necessary those skills are.”

She is goal-oriented, not lecture-tethered, and thrives on student involvement and discovery. To facilitate that, Reid uses every sort of technology available. Whether the class is tracked within the Game Art & Design Academy or in the mainstream, technology is no stranger to her classroom.

“One of the things that I excel at is what I’m going back for my master’s (degree) in – Instructional Technology,” she said. “It’s a tool for kids to build knowledge. Here’s the goal. How do we get there? (Teachers) are no longer just dispensers of knowledge. It’s very different from when I taught 15 years ago, but technology lets us do so much more.”

Reid often has students tweet their “exit ticket” from the classroom. Whether they use the 140 character Twitter limitation or a six-word memoir summarization, the goal is to choose words carefully when making a point. It’s an instant, insightful assessment tool that reveals what a student understands.

She also teaches technology to the staff at Heritage High as part of the professional development program. But her students are her focus, and she expects certain things from them when they step into her classroom.

“I expect their attention and their respect, but not because I demand it,” she said. “I want them to listen to me because they respect me. They don’t have to like me, but they have to at least know that we’re here for a reason.”

Expectations don’t stop with her students. She has high expectations of herself in the classroom, yet those expectations aren’t self serving. Everything with Reid goes back to creating relationships.

“I expect to make a connection with a kid,” she said. “That’s especially true if it’s a kid who’s struggling or maybe has brought something with them emotionally. When they realize I’m in their corner and that I really have their best interest at heart, then we can get down to some learning.”

Realistic about the students she teaches and the world in which they live, she knows that nothing is cut and dried from student to student, class to class, day to day.

“Kids are human. Some kids come in with baggage that I can’t even articulate,” she said. “Baggage that they ought not to be carrying. But again, if you don’t make the connection, you don’t even know that about a kid to work with them appropriately!”

Reid recognizes but never dwells on the difficulties in her students’ lives, choosing instead to help them be and do more than they ever thought possible.

“Affecting a student’s life, helping them grow, to overcome adversity? That’s a lifetime thing. If you’ve never been a teacher, you can’t explain that,” she said.

“It’s why teachers stay in education. It’s such a privilege to be able to walk with somebody through something that’s hard and help them out the other side. I mean, that’s a rush! That’s cool!”