JoBeth Allen was born in Evanston, IL and lived in Oklahoma and Texas before moving to Hill City Kansas, where she graduated from Hill City Rural High School. She studied education at Kansas University, earning Bachelors, Masters and an EdD there. JoBeth moved to Athens in 1986 to teach at the University of Georgia, where she spent nearly 30 years teaching in the Language and Literacy department in the College of Education. While at UGA, JoBeth and teacher co-researchers studied and wrote about literacy development in diverse classrooms, and family and community partnerships with schools. She retired in 2014. JoBeth is co-founder and co-director of U-Lead Athens, an organization dedicated to working with un(der)documented and first generation students to help them to find, prepare for, and pay for college. JoBeth has been married to Lew Allen for 50 years and has three grown children, Rachel (Joe), Luke (Michelle), and Paul (Tonya) and five grandchildren: Grace, Luke, Mia, Cora and Anikin. She lives on the Eastside.
What was your favorite part of your career?
Seeing the impact that teachers had in the classroom, and having them then bring those experiences back into the classes they were taking with me, and seeing that dynamic interchange between learning new things, applying them, and seeing students respond, especially in the areas of creating a more socially just curriculum, which many of the teachers did, in terms of partnering with parents and families and valuing the knowledge that parents had and incorporating that into the classroom. Also teachers discovering their own inner writers, and then helping young people realize that they too had a lot to say, that they could write and other people were interested in their thoughts when they put them in writing. Those three areas I think were the things I loved most.
What is your favorite thing to do in Athens?
Well, on a regular basis going to Cine and then going out to dinner afterwards and talking about the movie with friends. On a more occasional basis, I think Athens has wonderful events and probably my all-time favorite is Athens in Harmony [at The Foundry and benefitting Athens Antidiscrimination Movement]. I also like a lot of the other music events at The Foundry and also of course the farmers markets. I love the farmers markets!
If you could see any band or show, anywhere, what would it be and where?
It would be Hamilton on Broadway. The original cast.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I would read Pedagogy of the Oppressed much earlier in my career. I read it after I moved to Athens when I was an assistant professor and Joel Taxel said, “I think you should read this.” It changed everything.
What book do you find yourself re-reading, referencing, or gifting most often?
So, my favorite books tend to be favorites I’ve read recently. I really love to read. Favorites fall into two categories. The first is ones that really open my eyes to things, so in that I would put books like Just Mercy and The Color of Money. And, ones that really influenced me a lot in my daily life, like Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which changed the way I shop, cook, and eat to focus on more locally grown food. Then, I have what somebody once called “narrative lust.” I just love a really good novel. There are several of those each year that I just fall in love with and at the time they are my favorite book, and next year the next one is my favorite. This year one of them was The Overstory. Another one was The Weight of Ink. One that really combines those two things of learning a lot, but having a really strong narrative telling is The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration. Gosh, it was a terrific book.
Do you have a favorite movie, or the first movie you saw in a movie theatre?
My favorite movie is The Unafraid because I know the main characters, Aldo and Cheesecake, and it is the only film (a documentary) I have ever seen where I know the people in it. The two directors were wonderful women and they came to U-Lead several times to film. I have seen it many times because so many people in Athens wanted to see it so we had multiple showings, and afterwards Aldo and Cheesecake and their families spoke to the audiences and they were just really, really powerful in showing how difficult it is for students who are undocumented to go to college in Georgia.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
Any beach, any where, any time. With Lew.
What is something interesting about yourself that most people don’t know?
I have a son and a grandson named Luke. My son has a son named Anikin. My daughter-in-law, Tonya, makes costumes, including Star Wars costumes. And I have never seen “Star Wars”’!
If you could have lunch with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and where?
Lew every Friday at The National and sometimes we are really lucky and our daughter joins us. The other one would be Eleanor Roosevelt in her quarters in The White House, and I really would like to tap more into how a white woman of privilege made such a difference in the world at that time and sometimes even battling against her husband.
What are three words or phrases that come to mind when you think of the word “home”?
Family, food, and welcoming.