April 3, 2019 - James Allen can remember walking the halls of Fletcher High School as a student in the late ‘90s, his backpack in tow, rotating between his classes.
The year was 1997. Although an ordinary senior, Allen’s high school experience was unique– his dad was his teacher, the head of the science department and the coach of his favorite extracurricular team, Brain Brawl.
Allen watched his parents work as educators and school leaders throughout his childhood. Still, he never in his wildest dreams thought he would become a teacher at his very own high school just five years after graduating.
The 16-year veteran AP Computer Science and AP Physics teacher started his journey as a student at the University of South Florida before heading to New Mexico Tech to study earthquake seismology.
Despite his determination, Allen was having trouble finding a job within his field. It wasn’t until his dad told him about an opening at Fletcher High that Allen considered becoming a teacher.
He was concerned about the timing and his lack of experience. He worked tirelessly to complete his certifications and become an educator like his parents before him.
“It was the middle of the year and I didn’t even have my certifications yet,” said Allen. “It was tough, but I made a schedule and got through all the [certification] work.”
Over the past several years, Allen has continued to follow in his father’s footsteps. He even taught in the same room as his father not long after starting to teach at Fletcher High. Since his father’s retirement, Allen has taken over as Brain Brawl coach and department head.
“It’s rewarding knowing I can take over for my father,” said Allen. “I have a lot of students whose parents had my dad as a teacher, and I think that’s pretty cool to continue the ‘tradition’ of Allens teaching at Fletcher.”
Teaching alongside his dad and other adults who used to teach him is surprisingly natural to Allen.
“I think the most interesting thing about working with teachers who taught you was that it wasn’t awkward at all,” said Allen. “I think it helps that there’s four or so years between graduating and coming back. The difference in maturity between 18 and 23 is fairly significant I’d say. I never felt like I was being ‘talked down to,’ even though they might have taught me. Maybe they thought more of me since they did have a hand in contributing to my education.”
Although unplanned, Allen says he wouldn’t want to have had his career pan out any other way.
“I really enjoy it,” said Allen. “It’s a nice outlet for parlaying my knowledge and bad jokes onto others!”