After 37 years in education, math teacher Larry Allen retires


Larry Allen holds in one hand a calculator and ruler to represent the math classes he has been teaching at Sunny Hills, while his other hand holds a football signed by his 2018 Freshman City Championship players. Image posted with permission from Aurora Allen.

Charis Lee, Feature Editor

Buena Park, Fullerton, Sonora and Troy — all high schools in the Fullerton Joint Union High School District that math teacher Larry Allen has taught at before coming to Sunny Hills High School. The only campus Allen hasn’t taught at in the district is La Habra and the continuing education schools.

Allen, who also coaches freshman football and at one point was a play-by-play announcer for boys basketball, surprised the Sunny Hills staff on the last day of the 2019-2020 school year for teachers on May 29 when he announced his retirement, joining business teacher and Advancement Via Individual Determination coordinator Lori Larsen.

The math teacher said his favorite quote comes from Benjamin Franklin: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

Allen has definite plans for his retirement, saying he intends to enjoy such hobbies as fishing, boating, water skiing, snow skiing, hiking, traveling and spending time with his grandkids.

“Looking forward to fishing when the fishing is good, being active, being a husband and grandfather,” he said. 

Rather than ask Allen 37 questions for each year he has taught, The Accolade decided to limit it to only 10.

Question #1: What is your favorite memory of being a teacher? 

Answer: Best memory is when the student finally “gets it” and the light goes on. The smile and gleam in their eyes is awesome; I think every teacher lives for that.

Question #2: Who or what has been your biggest motivation or inspiration to teach?

A: I got into teaching through coaching. To see a player succeed through hard work and teamwork is amazing. In college, I played football for a legend, Hal Sherbeck. The field at Fullerton College is named after him. Playing for him with local players and having success really got me involved in coaching.

Question #3: What is one piece of advice or message you would give to high school students?

A: Work hard and persevere. You could really see some students embrace that during our remote learning. Another idea is empathy. It’s important to understand where others are coming from, like the saying, “Don’t judge others until you’ve walked a mile in their moccasins.” Look others in the eye and talk with them — listen to them — doing those things help to understand them.

Question #4: What was your greatest achievement as a teacher?

A: I feel teaching is a journey, not a destination. It’s a series of the little things that make up the career. I’ve been a head coach of several sports [with undefeated seasons], adviser for the yearbook, sheltered learning leader, professional development presenter and department level leader. But in every one of those it comes down to the one-on-one interaction that counts. Those feel like the greatest achievements.

Question #5: How have you changed since you first started teaching at this school?

A: Technology is the biggest change. We adopted a new math curriculum, Pearson, in which practically everything was new. Creating online assignments, tests, lessons, etc. In fact, I signed up for and received a giant touch screen in my room although I never got to use it. The use of technology has been the biggest change, especially with the new Zoom lessons, too! Quite different from copies, overhead projectors, overhead calculators, algebra tiles, Scantrons, even mimeographs (many teachers might not know what those are!).

Question #6: Out of all of your years as a teacher, which year was your favorite?

A: I had a blast when my three kids attended the school I taught at; all three received full rides to play college sports. My two boys played football (one at Oklahoma State and the other at West Virginia), and my daughter played soccer (at Vanderbilt). Watching them grow through high school and be successful were amazing!

Question #7: What will you miss the most?

A: The interaction with the kids. I have a soft spot for the kids who struggle, work hard and persevere through it all. So many varied backgrounds and situations. It’s special when they talk about their issues and begin to make decisions — good decisions — about their journey. High schoolers have the whole world in front of them. I always tell my students to find their passion and pursue that passion. If you can get paid for that, you’ll never have to work a day in your life!

Question #8: What was the most challenging thing as a teacher?

A: Trying to get the kids to advocate for themselves. Too many times the parent steps in and tries to fix everything. In my mind, high school is a growing up time — time to find who you are, what you stand for, where you’re going; time to accept responsibility, appreciate the rewards of hard work and set sights on young adulthood.

Question #9: Describe your teaching experience in three words. 

A: Variety, fairness and empathy

Question #10: What made you decide to retire?

A: I feel the teaching profession is changing. It seems to be less about face-to-face interaction and more about doing it online. With the huge impact of social media, influencers, bloggers and online learning pulling at every kid, students seem to be easily distracted in a social setting with 40 other kids. The learning has changed; it’s hard for me to know where kids are coming from and how to reach them. It’s time to let the next generation of teachers influence the new leaders.