Norwood Creek Newsroom
"I am already ticking. It's no more me. It's what makes a child tick," says Norwood teacher Brenda Allen. From humble beginnings in her hometown of Columbus Georgia, to living directly amidst the civil rights movement, Brenda Allen has committed her life to fulfilling the needs of children as an educator, striving to understand what is best for her students. Caring, passionate and worldly are just a few qualities that can begin to describe Allen who currently teaches a combo 1st and 2nd grade class.
Her strong passion can be largely attributed to the era she grew up in. "I came up in the time when Afro-Americans had to deal with Jim Crow. I was idealistic and believed in the philosophy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Figured after college, I would head to Washington D.C. and help change things." Right in the mix of the civil rights movement, her original career pursuit was to be a politician. Despite her efforts on capital hill, her curiosity for children began to consume her. Entering the world of education was not her first choice, but making a difference was part of her dream. With this goal in mind, Ms. Allen became an educator.
Allen had strong mentors along the way including her beloved professor at San Jose State, Dr. Konishi. Konishi directed Allen to Evergreen of which he spoke very highly. She reflects on her early years in the District stating, "Evergreen gave you a sense of family and made you want to emulate others for success. You were welcome and you felt proud to be a part. I selected Evergreen because it was known in the educational arena for being the most respected, where others wanted to emulate, and above all, had the ability to see the solutions to problems." In years after, Allen has enjoyed Evergreen's diversity in all it's realms including the schools' staffs and the community's families. Allen is inspired everyday by the District and her school.
Although Allen has spread her wings far and has experienced much since her origins, she is forever indebted to the roots in her childhood that shaped her to be a strong, determined, and humble person. Allen's father died early in her life, leaving her to take on many responsibilities. Until tenth grade, Allen attended an all-black high school, and then transferred to the only white school that had yet to be integrated. She reflects, "Be mindful, it was 1965 and Jim Crow Laws were illegal, but ignored in my hometown. Twelve of us were chosen to go. I didn't quite understand what I was getting into. You don't hear much about the last groups that integrated places, but I feel we had one of the hardest jobs in making change for equal rights. It was a difficult/sad time for me. My journey really started here." From that moment, Allen's temperament shifted from "see what I did" to seeing what she could do to bring about change.
She held various jobs including with her first job ever at Burger King where she proudly worked on french fries. She was also a part of a traveling folk band, a bank teller, a daycare supervisor, and finally became a teacher. From these experiences Allen has learned to adapt to whatever comes her way. In her current role, as an educator, Allen reflects, "You should not take it for granted. It is a calling! You can't just educate with skills. You have to develop a code of behavior and conduct. Be open to change and implement in a way to get others to follow. It does not have to be your way or my way. It has to be "THE WAY"to get the job done be it with children, administrators, or teachers."
Allen's passion shines through her words, making her a rarity in the field. Her students—her biggest fans—find this to be true as well. Recently, one of Allen's past students presented Allen with an honor for being an inspiration to her. Allen recognizes this as one of her most fond and proud moments of her career, and rightfully so!
As she approaches retirement, Allen has learned from Evergreen how to be the best teacher possible by understanding how the best teacher approaches the problems in classrooms today. Allen believes that before allowing trends and changes in education, the problems must be addressed first. She believes that the present problems include an overuse of technology at home and in the school and the changing demographics such as emotional challenges that create different dynamics in the classroom. The changes needed must address these most harping problems that are right in front of our faces. She states, "We need to come up with new strategies, because public education cannot continue to produce moderate quality to compete." Allen believes in the approach of inclusion by including the district and community to be directly involved in addressing these issues.
Mrs. Allen's humble beginnings, early life adversities, career trajectories, and her time at Evergreen has inspired her beliefs. Allen knows the truth may be harsh, but she states, "Hopefully, it will make a difference."