Coffee Chats: English teacher Alanna Williamson
Here is the first installment of Coffee Chats, where The Paly Voice gets to know staff members over a cup of coffee.
The Paly Voice sat down with English teacher Alanna Williamson over an iced eggnog latte to discuss how the new school year is going and her advice for students.
This is Williamson’s first year working at Palo Alto High School. She teaches both English 10/10A and American Literature for juniors. According to Williamson she would love to teach an elective in upcoming years. Along with teaching English, Williamson is the assistant coach for Paly’s dance team and even helped lead the teacher dance during Spirit Week.
“I’m an assistant coach,” Williamson said. “It’s fun. She [dance teacher Hillary McDaniels] organized and I helped. We co-choreographed. I loved Spirit Week.”
Williamson grew up near Palo Alto in Sunnyvale and graduated from Fremont High School. During her high school career, she participated in theater and was the president of the spoken word poetry club at her school. After graduation, she attended De Anza College for three years before transferring to University of California, Los Angeles. Williamson was always passionate about English and knew that if her theatrical dreams did not work out she would like to pursue a career in English education.
“I was thinking about pursuing theatre and Broadway and when that didn’t pan out, I had to refocus,” Williamson said. “And I really loved talking about education with people. A lot of my friends had a lot of problems in the way the education system is [run] so I want to help fix that.”
Having graduated from school relatively recently, Williamson says she is able to relate to her students and the problems they face each day.
“I think that there still needs to be that student-teacher line,” Williamson said. “But I do want you guys to know that it really wasn’t that long ago that I went through all the same stuff that you’re going through now and that I can talk to you guys and support you through everything.”
According to Williamson, Paly itself is not the place to blame for student stress, but rather the Palo Alto student environment as a whole.
“I think that there’s so much that the teachers do all the time with the way that they conduct their classes and the different things being set into place at Paly that are there to really support students,” Williamson said. “I think it has to do more with the community we’re in, and the environment and the fact that [Stanford] is across the street staring at us every day and just kind of looming.”
The biggest advice that Williamson has for students about stress or feeling down is to not be ashamed to talk to someone about it.
“Talk to somebody,” Williamson said. “Don’t feel ashamed because it’s such a human experience. Everyone’s going through it. It’s just because we live in silence all the time so people feel like you should feel bad about it. You really don’t have to feel bad about it. And you’ll get better.”
Having gone through the college application process herself recently, Williamson believes that sometimes going to community college and transferring to another school can be a good option.
“Don’t ruin your life trying to stress out about it now and feel sad if you can’t make it for some reason that’s completely out of your control when you can instead plan your future in a different way,” Williamson said. “That would be more beneficial for you.”
Williamson loves teaching at Paly and thinks of it as a unique opportunity that she plans to continue career for as long as possible.
“It’s a pretty cross your heart thing getting placed somewhere like Paly, so as long as they want me, I’ll stay,” Williamson said.