SOUTHINGTON – High school teacher Heather Allenback knew early in her life that she loved school and wanted to be an educator.
“I made my sister do worksheets and all kinds of things,” Allenback said.
Allenback, social studies department leader, was named the district’s teacher of the year recently. The New Britain resident has spent her entire 23-year teaching career at Southington High School, teaching civics, U.S. history, world history and AP psychology, a program she started two decades ago. She’s also the head cheerleading coach.
Psychology is a popular senior elective. Allenback said it appeals to teens looking for ways to explain behaviors and motivations. It also gives students a chance to talk about themselves.
Allenback is encouraged when students contact her and say the course was helpful in their college studies. Emails from former students can be inspiring.
“They pop up at the best times,” she said. “It’s fun to see them...to still want to peak into my life and let me be a part of their life too.”
Allenback described her job as new every year with a fresh crop of students and a chance to adjust her teaching. As the daughter of a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot, Allenback said she’s comfortable with frequent change, new faces and new situations.
“I graduate every year,” she said. “I go with (the seniors) through all the anxiety of applying for colleges and applying for scholarships,”
Frequent moves, as well as the divorce of her parents, also led Allenback to appreciate school.
“Through all of that kind of chaos, the teachers were always my constant,” she said. “I’ve always loved my schools as my community.”
Chris Palmieri, Depaolo Middle School principal, led the committee that selected Allenback.
“We are very lucky to have a district with phenomenal teachers at all levels,” Palmieri said. “The decision becomes harder and harder every year.”
Allenback will be Southington’s candidate for the state honor as well.
Palmieri and other committee members were impressed with Allenback’s knowledge of educational issues and trends, her involvement with the school culture and her work with other teachers as a department leader.
“It’s still a teaching role but she’s also serving to help and guide other teachers as well,” Palmieri said.
Allenback appreciated the honor.
“It’s very humbling to know that one of my colleagues wrote” a recommendation, she said.