Life at Webb with Will Allan ’94
Life at Webb revolves around its students and the faculty and staff that make the schools feel like home. As an alumnus and beloved history teacher, Will Allan ’94 is one of the few alumni who has experienced both.
Head of Schools Taylor Stockdale was working in the admissions office when Allan first discovered Webb. After initially being uninterested in applying, his mother was surprised when he agreed to take a tour of the schools.
“I remember on the drive up, I was pretty skeptical,” Allan says. “That one tour — that really changed my mind.”
Little did Allan know that he would not only become a student at Webb, but later return to the schools as a teacher, where he has taught and coached students for 21 years.
Allan says he started as a traditional history teacher, focused on subjects like US and world history, but has branched out to more contemporary subjects including the Constitution, entrepreneurship and economics. He currently teaches two courses:
“Foundations of Civilization” and “Press, Politics and American Power.”
When Allan reflects on his time as a student, he remembers being dedicated to academics and sports, and quiet in class. When former Head of Schools Susan Nelson first told Allan he had been hired to teach at Webb in 1999, he wondered how he would adjust to the new role.
“I remember I hung up the phone and said, ‘What did I just get into? I’m going to be leading and teaching the class?’ That was out of my comfort zone for sure,” he says.
Decades later, Allan not only teaches history, but also serves as dorm head of Holt and Kirkhill, JV football coach, and advisor to business and investment-oriented clubs.
His favorite thing about teaching at Webb are his interactions with students and faculty.
“The faculty at Webb is so dynamic and so thoughtful and so bright, it’s really inspiring to work with folks like that,” he says. “The students are the same or better. The students have a lot to say and a lot going on in their minds. To be able to tap into that and extract that kind of passion and that intelligence is probably the best part.”
During his time as a teacher and coach, Allan learned how to adapt to daily challenges and keep students engaged.
Whether it’s bringing the class back after the discussion goes on a tangent, or deciding to take a time out during a game, “you need to be able to pivot and really think on your feet,” he says. “But honestly that’s what makes it interesting. That’s the kind of personal interaction that I like — that no two days are the same and no two students are the same.”
This year brought a new set of changes and challenges when the schools pivoted to a virtual teaching format in March. Although some academic processes have not shifted drastically, Allan misses some of the interactions that come with teaching classes in person. “The assessment part is not as different, but seeing how they’re doing as people and how they’re doing holistically — that’s the challenge,” he explains. “It’s harder to gauge how the class and individual students are doing.”
He has adapted by starting off classes with an icebreaker to engage with students. For example, instead of simply asking students how they are doing, he asks questions about what songs they like or what song describes how they are feeling that day.
He keeps in touch with some of the friends he made as a student at Webb. The only people he has seen over the quarantine have been Webb friends.
“I think that there is a bond that is created by the nature of Webb being so small, and by default so interactive,” he said. “I have bumped into Webb alumni all around the world, and you share an instant connection. It’s like we are all in this together, working side by side.”
Get to know Will Allan
What is your favorite spot on campus?
Chandler Field. It’s a place where I have a lot of memories, and its own spooky little microclimate. It’s always 15 degrees colder there.
What was your favorite subject as a student at Webb?
US History & Physics. I like the stories of history and the personalities in history, but also learning about the macro events, what really happened, why they’re important and how they impact the world. I like the fact that physics is tangible, and that I can visualize what’s going on.
Who was your favorite teacher as a student at Webb?
Dave Fawcett ’61 or Coach Pride. I think they were the two teachers that I really respected and also learned a lot from. Dave later became a colleague of mine and a powerful mentor.
Favorite dining hall meal?
Sunday brunch or Al Alvarez’s carrot cake. I’ve never tasted carrot cake like that since he retired.
The Winter 2021 Webb Magazine is available in PDF form, you can view or download it by clicking here.