WAKE FOREST — Three years ago, Allison Reid had to decide whether to continue running her successful window treatment and bedding design company or return to her first love of teaching.
She walked away from the business world and resumed her career as an English teacher, a field she had initially left to raise her family. Reid’s decision was validated this week when the Heritage High School teacher was named the Wake County school system’s 2014 Teacher of the Year.
“It’s humbling,” Reid said Friday amid congratulations from her students and fellow teachers at the Wake Forest school. “All the finalists are the best of the best. It’s a little crazy to be mentioned in their ranks.”
But there’s no question for her colleagues that Reid, an educator with eight years of experience, is one of the best teachers in the school district, if not the state.
“She was born to teach English,” said Mark Savage, the principal of Heritage High and Wake’s reigning Principal of the Year.
Reid, 40, can trace her desire to become an educator to Debra Miller, her English and theater teacher at North Iredell High School in Iredell County. She remembers how Miller was able to motivate students to come out of their shells and gain confidence.
Reid met her husband, Paul, while they were both teaching in Winston-Salem. They relocated to Wake in 1998 to be near her family. The couple were hired to teach at East Wake High School in Wendell.
But Reid said her husband had to quit being a science teacher, a job he loved, so that he could make more money to support their family.
‘It wasn’t fulfilling’
During her break from teaching to raise her three children, Reid started her design company. But the Wake Forest resident said she felt “called” to return to teaching after a 10-year absence.
“There’s no such thing as a drapery emergency,” she said. “It’s not changing the world. I made more money, but it wasn’t fulfilling for me.”
Once back in the classroom, Reid earned a reputation as being a leader in technology skills. She’s taught her fellow teachers at the school system’s Summer Institute how to use technology such as Twitter in their classrooms.
In addition to teaching regular English classes, she also is part of Heritage’s new Game Art & Design Academy, which is training students for careers in gaming. Reid says that instead of traditional essays, she has her gaming students do things like write blog posts.
“The reason I like technology in the classroom is it allows you to bring the kids in,” Reid said. “It’s the carrot. Once they’re in, they want to learn more. “
‘Really high standards’
In addition to being skilled at using technology, Reid is good at building relationships with her students, Savage said.
“She has really high standards,” he said. “But the kids know she’s in their corner.”
Alexus Hatchett, 18, a senior in Reid’s British literature class, said she’s very approachable.
“She’s a great teacher,” Hatchett said. “Anytime I need something, I don’t mind asking her.”
Reid expects to complete her master’s degree in instructional technology this summer. She said she wants to learn to help her colleagues even more in using technology.
But in a change approved by the General Assembly last year, Reid would get her degree past the cutoff date for when the state would provide extra pay to teachers who earn new advanced degrees. While Reid said she’s not doing it for the extra pay, she said it’s sad that teachers like her who were in the process of getting their degrees would be shut out.
Gov. Pat McCrory announced this week that he’ll put restoration of extra pay for teachers who receive new advanced degrees into his budget for this year. But there’s no guarantee that the extra pay for master’s degrees or the across-the-board pay raises proposed by McCrory will be adopted by state legislators.
Low teacher pay and the elimination of tenure have helped make education a hot-button issue in North Carolina.
“It’s a sad thing when we have had to have these kinds of conversations this past year,” Reid said.