The Human Behind AP Human Geography


Alice Bai, Editor-in-chief

Starting at a new school halfway through the school year can be a daunting task, for students and teachers alike. There is a lot to learn about dynamics in the classroom and the operation of the school as a whole–but it was a challenge new AP Human Geography teacher Allison Castle was willing to face, due to her love for teaching.

Following a move from Virginia because of her husband’s work, Castle was itching to get back in the classroom.

“I was teaching gardening classes to the kids at my children’s school, and I don’t know anything about gardening,” she said. “But that desire to be back in a classroom was there.”

Her love for education began while she was still a school student herself.

“Internally and subconsciously, I always wanted to be a teacher. I would go to school all day and come home and play teacher,” she said. “My parents installed like a giant chalkboard in our play room, and teachers gave me their teacher’s edition spelling books and stuff like that when they retired. I would just play forever.”

But finding her way to the career was not as straightforward as it may seem.

“For a long time, I thought that I was going to be an attorney,” she said. “All the way through senior year of college, that was the plan. I took my LSATs [Law School Admission Tests], I applied to law schools, and then I was sitting at dinner with my best friend and I just blurted it out, ‘I don’t want to be a lawyer, I want to be a teacher.’”

Her best friend was not shocked by the revelation.

“She was just like, ‘yeah, I know, obviously,’” said Castle. “So then [after] all of that time and energy and money spent on all those applications, I didn’t accept any law schools that I got into. I applied for masters programs in education, and then graduated in May and started [graduate school] in June, and it took about a year and that next September, I was in the classroom.”

Castle has been teaching ever since, a few years of maternity leave excluded.

“This is my tenth year teaching, and I have always taught. I taught out of grad school, and I have a mixture of middle school and high school background,” she said. “I love civics and government, and I love United States history. That’s where my passion is, that’s where the bulk of my knowledge is.”

Her love for social studies extends back to her high school classes as well.

“My favorite class of all time was AP European History,” she said. “The monarchs are so twisted and it was just so interesting because the European monarchs are just very fascinating, it’s like an ongoing soap opera.”

Castle also loved her literature classes, and is still an avid reader to this day.

“I absolutely love reading,” she said. “If it is something that is not academic that requires a lot of concentration, I can speed read it. I can fly through novels very quickly.”

Of all the books she has read, her favorite is A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers.

“It’s funny, and it’s sad, and it’s poignant,” she said. “I haven’t read it in a long time, but I remember when I finished I was like, ‘This is it. This is a great book.’”

Another favorite activity of hers is watching, in her words, “Real Housewives of anything.”

“It just makes me feel better about my life, because they are so troubled,” she said. “My kids, they can spot it, and they’re like, ‘Oh my god, you’re watching Real Housewives.’ And they’re always like, ‘They say a lot of bad words,’ and I’m like, ‘Get out of here.’”

A final thing she likes to see is something she has already noticed among Chamblee’s students: the high standard to which they hold themselves to.

“I think Chamblee has the most amazing students. It is so refreshing, when I walk through the halls and I hear conversation about things that I don’t understand, because I am not a math/science person,” she said. “I was looking at one of my students’ math, and she had all these equations written out and I was like, ‘I don’t understand anything that’s on that paper. I see some numbers, but I don’t understand anything,’ because that’s not the way my mind works. It’s really cool to see students who obviously have a love of learning, and I think that’s really something special.”