A little more than three decades ago, Carol Allen, a 1979 Broughton High School graduate, returned to her alma mater as an English teacher.
This year, her oldest daughter, Anna Christian Allen, another Broughton grad, also made her way to the front of an English classroom there.
In a big, bustling place, the two aren’t constantly bumping into one another. But they do have a shared love of their students that comes through immediately when they talk about why they teach.
Curriculum plans may come and go, debates about salary and tenure may rage on Jones Street, but the art of caring about students is a constant across generations of successful teachers, they said.
“What remains the same is the kids. It’s our constancy in the lives of our students,” said Carol Allen, 53.
As long as a teacher can forge those relationships, the rest will come, she said.
It’s advice that Anna Christian, 25, has seen at work in her first months as a teacher.
Each day, building relationships with her students has been the best part of her job, she said.
“I’m doing my job with the students I’ve been entrusted with, and so to me, that’s the most important part,” she said. “Maybe that’s naive, maybe that’s idealistic, but that’s how I’m choosing to approach my job.”
Anna Christian graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2011 as a N.C Teaching Fellow. Since then, she’s traveled and worked in South Africa and East Asia and earned a master’s degree in teaching.
In her first year of teaching, she’s looking for ways to strike a balance between emulating her mother’s deep commitment to students and finding her own voice as a teacher.
“I’m back at my old school, a school that was so shaping and forming to me as a student, so how can I, on the other side of things, as a teacher, have influence and shape the lives of young people in a way that is my own?” she asked.
Carol, also a UNC-Chapel Hill grad, and her husband George have three daughters who have come through Broughton: Anna Christian, Mary Carr Allen, 22, and Sallie Allen, 17, a current senior at the school.
She was thrilled to share the school she loves with her daughters as students. Now, with Anna Christian as a teacher, she’s learning new things about her job as well. She coordinates the school’s mentoring program for teachers and gets to see, from the perspective of a mother, the life of a first-year teacher.
“I’m more sensitive to the issues or the problems that we take for granted,” she said.
Broughton principal Stephen Mares said that both women are student-centered teachers who care passionately about young people. It’s also a plus to have teachers who have a deep love of Broughton’s culture.
“It’s awesome to have them because they went here,” he said. “They understand the values and traditions we have.”
Anna Christian said that teaching in the same school as a family member works because her mother has made it clear they can talk about teaching as much or as little as she likes. Carol is a source of wisdom, but she’s not playing the role of a veteran teacher all the time. Sometimes, she’s just Mom.
The whole Allen family tries to get together at least once a week for dinner, to watch a Broughton or Carolina game. The sisters often attend church services together.
Having a close-knit family is another part of what makes life together at Broughton a natural fit for the Allens.
“We share a close family bond anyway, so it’s not weird to see each other,” Anna Christian said.
Sallie, the youngest of the Allen daughters, said it’s been a pleasure to see her family’s commitment and love of Broughton.
“It has been very influential to have my sister and my mom just pour so much into this school,” she said. “It has just inspired me and encouraged me to dig deeper and invest more in this place while I’m here.”