BUCKHANNON – A Buckhannon-Upshur High School teacher has been named the 2023 History Teacher of the Year for West Virginia.
The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History recognizes American history teachers from elementary school through high school levels from each state, the District of Columbia, Department of Defense schools and U.S. territories.
Allman is also one of 53 finalists for the 2023 National History Teacher of the Year Award.
“I felt excitement — almost disbelief, to a degree — because even though I have been recognized for my teaching, I also know how many other incredible teachers are in West Virginia,” Allman said. “It’s really special for me to get to represent not only my district but our state, and when I look at the other recipients from the other states, and I’m one of 53 people that’s a finalist for the National History Teacher of the year, that’s a really mind-blowing and special thing.”
Allman previously earned the Milken Educator Award when he was a sixth-grade social studies teacher at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School.
“I’ve been lucky because the Milken Award really elevated my status as an educator in West Virginia, and people are more aware of the things that I do, but I also see people that work so hard every single day who are just as worthy of the award as I am,” Allman said.
“I’ve been given this platform,” he added. “I need to use it to make sure the spotlight can be shined on everybody in my district — not just me, but everybody in Upshur County and teachers in general in West Virginia.”
Allman hopes this award will help people recognize the work of other stellar educators in Upshur County.
“Upshur County Schools has gone through a dark period here, but when people think about Upshur County Schools, I want them to realize that our school system is full of wonderful teachers, and we are still doing what we have always done, which is educate kids to the best of our ability,” Allman said.
“Our schools are wonderful, and they are full of incredible educators, and I’m so blessed that I get to work with them, and I know our students benefit from all the wonderful things these people do for them every day,” he continued. “I took the opportunity to fill out the application for this award, and I hope that it can be a positive moment in a difficult time for our district.”
Allman began teaching in Upshur County 15 years ago as a substitute teacher and then as the sixth-grade social studies teacher at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School. Thirteen years later, he became the principal at Rock Cave Elementary School for about one year but then joined the staff of Buckhannon-Upshur High School two years ago.
Allman primarily teaches World History or World Studies to B-UHS freshmen, but he also offers a West Virginia History elective.
“It elaborates on some of the coursework they did in the eighth grade because they have West Virginia history, but we’re able to take it a little bit further and really delve a little bit deeper into some of the topics they’re interested in since it is an elective course,” he said. “I’m free to make that class what the kids want it to be and what they want to learn about regarding our state.”
Allman grew up in Lewis County and Jane Lew before attending West Virginia Wesleyan College and initially began taking courses in the medical field.
“You hear these things growing up like ‘Oh, you don’t want to be a teacher – you won’t make any money,’ so I didn’t consider [majoring in] education going to college, even though it’s something I’ve always enjoyed, working with students or kids, and I’ve always loved history,” Allman said. “I went to college, I majored in chemistry with the thought of potentially being a pharmacist or a doctor, and I got to Wesleyan, I did well in those classes, but I just wasn’t as happy as I thought I should be.”
Allman decided he needed to find a profession that wouldn’t feel like a job.
“I don’t feel like I’m working when I’m at school, so I decided after my freshman year that I was going to change my major, and I had to figure out a way to get paid to do something that I love, and that’s what I figured out,” he said. “I went into education, focused on social studies, and it definitely has turned out all right for me.”
Allman has noticed a significant difference between entering the teaching field in 2007 to today.
“I graduated in 2007, but in 2007, you couldn’t just graduate from an education program in West Virginia and expect to find a job, and now it seems like you really can’t find enough people to fill positions,” Allman said. “I knew that I wanted to stay in West Virginia; I wanted to give back to this state.”
“I think West Virginia is unfairly pegged or given a reputation of being a certain way, and I don’t want that for my students,” he said. “I want them to realize that even though they’re growing up in the heart of Appalachia – where poverty is a little bit higher here or whatever it may be –, I want them to understand that even though they may be growing up within those situations, they can make still make something for themselves.”
Allman didn’t always intend to stay in Upshur County, but his student teaching at B-UMS enticed him to stay.
“I didn’t necessarily think that I would stay in Upshur County, but I also loved my student teaching experience at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School, and I ended up spending the next 13 years there because it was just a place that was special to me,” Allman said. “I started subbing there, and then I ended up getting hired one day before school started, and that was in 2009 to teach sixth-grade social studies.”
Allman enjoys learning and teaching about different points in time but finds it particularly fulfilling to analyze the cause-and-effect of certain events and examine how they still impact current events and daily life.
“I love teaching about the contemporary American history, about the World Wars and why things are the way they are and relating that back to students and their families and how they may have their own personal history with those conflicts,” he said. “[I love] analyzing why those things happened and understanding how history and things that have happened in the past affect or influence who we are today. Students realize they are a part of history, and they’re living it every single day.”
Allman also emphasized his support for his fellow teachers and his overall respect for the teaching profession.
“I really want to hit home — especially at this time with what Upshur County Schools is going through – that there can be a lot of negative attention or assumptions that are being made about the school system,” Allman said. “I also don’t want the actions of a few people to set the standard for what our district is doing because we have wonderful people in our schools, and I’m so proud to work for our county.”
“I love teaching social studies, and I’m so proud to be a teacher,” he said.