By SHERIDAN ROY
Southington Public Schools announced that Heather Allenback can add another designation to her belt: 2020 Teacher of the Year.
Allenback is a social studies teacher at Southington High School, advanced placement psychology teacher, and head coach of the high school cheerleading team.
Allenback has been teaching in Southington since 1995.
Allenback attributes her love of social studies to being part of a military family with a vast appreciation for history.
“I am the daughter of a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force—an occupation that led to a mobile lifestyle for my entire youth,” she said. “My father is a major history buff, so it was not uncommon that I talked to him about what he was reading at the time, or for the family to stop at a historical marker.”
Throughout her childhood, she lived in 17 different states before the age of 17.
“I developed a great appreciation for not only the diversity of our country, but also the incredibly important role teachers and schools play in the lives of young people,” said Allenback. “Unlike many individuals in Connecticut, I never had that one place to call ‘home’—that one address that I always knew would be there for me. What I had—that one constant—was school.”
Allenback finds inspiration to push on in her busy day-to-day life from that very school pride.
“There are days when a meeting doesn’t go right, a lesson just isn’t the best, a practice was especially tough or I have a lot of papers to correct. It can be overwhelming,” she said. “I think the source of my inspiration comes from the school pride and the internal gratitude I feel when I know my students, athletes or colleagues have experienced a success that I was part of or cheerleader for.”
Between teaching classes, preparing for other classes, observing teachers in her department, meetings with teachers or students, and spending several hours at cheerleading practices after school hours each week, Allenback still feels lucky for where she works and who she works with.
“While there will always be challenges, the students at SHS are fun to work with and well-educated,” she said. “As for the staff, I think it says a lot when several of our staff members are graduates of SHS. That says a lot about the experience they had and the level of commitment they have toward (Southington schools).”
In Allenback’s classroom, there is a theme evident in a quick scan. She has posters, quotes and t-shirts espousing the virtues of benevolence and good will.
“Critical to the effectiveness of such virtues is the fundamental understanding that humans are social creatures. Interacting with others is the reason we have survived for thousands of years,” she said. “We need each other. Our core social motives embody social belonging.”
The Teacher of the Year said adults must remember they are role models.
“Treating one another with decency and respect provides a positive backdrop for our future,” she said. “That’s why it’s so important to be kind and encourage children to be the same. As an educator or parent, you never know what impact you will have on your students.”
Allenback will be recognized at a reception prior to a Board of Education meeting in September at the municipal center.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Roy, email her at SRoy@SouthingtonObserver.com.