I am orange-blooded and loyal to the University of Tennessee, both as a lifetime fan and an alumna: wearing orange, singing Rocky Top, obsessively watching games and tracking players. I thought I was a real fanatic until I met Allen Landers. I first met Allen as a principal interviewing him for a job. Then, it was his passion for teaching and education that impressed me during that first encounter and that passion has only increased and I will get to that on into this story. Earlier story here.
Getting to know Allen allowed me to see how his passion for the University of Tennessee sports is just as extraordinary. Whereas my interest lies with a few of the sports, Landers can be found in the stands at every sport and many on the same day. He can be found going from the baseball field to softball field and on to the soccer field or volleyball court. He has been known to travel from an out of state game back in town to an on-campus game of another sport.
This diehard Vol relationship began when Allen was in fourth grade, living in Knoxville while his dad was getting his doctorate at University of Tennessee. Landers was tapped to be the Smokey mascot in 1981 while he was attending UT. He continued as Smokey until 1983 when he moved into the cheerleading role until graduation in 1984. He says, “Being in Knoxville has allowed me to live out my number one passion by attending and supporting all of the Vols’ sports teams. I really enjoy it more than should be legally allowed.”
Allen’s character is one of service and sacrifice as he served our country in the Navy for 20 years after graduation, retired from the Navy, and decided to begin his service in the education field by earning his teaching certificate from the Troops to Teachers program. He says his time in the service was invaluable training for his teaching career, “My 20 years exposed me to the wonderfully diverse population of the USA. I had to learn how to get along with everyone and build teams to get the job done. It has truly helped me relate to my students everywhere I have taught.”
Having taught third grade in both Georgia and Knoxville schools’ systems, Allen has earned Teacher of the Year at Garden City Elementary in Georgia and he is an invaluable piece of the Sarah Moore Greene family in Knoxville. His quote on SMG reflects the character of this neat human, “I have had students this year that are not even in my class come to my room and give me gifts. It has been amazing. The kids I teach at SMG need advocates and I am more than happy to be one for them. They are cool little people and I love working with them.”
I feel very blessed to have been wise enough to call him for that interview!
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