A Q&A with a Golden Apple Finalist from Northside College Prep
SCHOOLS | March 30, 2022
A Q&A with a Golden Apple Finalist from Northside College Prep

Mr. Alan Hennagir has been teaching English at Northside College Prep for the past 19 years, currently teaching American Literature, Film Studies, and AP Language and Composition. When he graduated from college, he had the idea of teaching in the back of his head, but felt too young and inexperienced to initially pursue it as a career. After working as a library assistant and technology reporter, he felt like he had the experience to teach students something that went beyond the classroom. He also wanted to be around young people who are creative and excited about learning. Get to know him more below.

What are you known for at your school, both by your students and colleagues?
Students have told me my class is inclusive, and that they feel comfortable sharing their own thoughts and taking risks in my class. My goal is to set up an environment where students feel comfortable so they too can find their voices. When this is happening in my classroom, I end up learning as much as the students do. I want to be a person who students and teachers can reach out to for help. 

I also want to show them that what we’re doing in English classes isn’t magic. It takes practice to write well and to find your voice, but it is something we can all do. I also do my best to relate readings to contemporary life. I’m pretty open about how I relate to works and how they often make me reconsider my own attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.

What is your approach to instruction and helping students learn and grow throughout the school year?
At the beginning of the school year, I try to meet students where they are and begin to build on strengths all year long. Since we’re still living through a pandemic I also try to see where students are emotionally. In order to keep students engaged, I try to incorporate art and music into my instruction as much as possible. It often gives students another way to show that they understand the content and close reading skills that I am trying to teach.

What are your goals for your students?
In the short term, I want my students to use literature to grow and understand others. I think good literature teaches us empathy. It allows us to walk around in the shoes of characters we disagree with, don’t understand, or are even appalled by. I want them to have the skills to articulate their own unique interpretations of literature. In the long term, I want students to find their own voices as English students and members of the community. I want them to feel excited about literature and empowered as writers and thinkers. 

If you had to describe your career in one word, what would it be and why?
Rewarding. No matter how many challenges I’ve had as a teacher, it always ends up being worth it. If I’m going to be preoccupied with my job at times, why not be preoccupied with literature, writing, and trying to empower young people?

Mr. Hennagir is one of the District’s 13 finalists for the Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching. He says this honor has made him feel fortunate to be a part of such a supportive community of students and teachers, and that having his students congratulate him was unforgettable.