The student news site of Bellaire High School

Three Penny Press

The student news site of Bellaire High School

Three Penny Press

The student news site of Bellaire High School

Three Penny Press

Don’t just bring Frankenstein back to life, ask why

English teacher’s journey to teaching
Provided by Steffannie Alter
In 2019, Steffannie Alter graduated from Rice University in Houston, Texas, where she completed her bachelors in English and master’s degree in teaching.

Her husband thinks she’s half book, and he’s probably right.

She’s a little nerdy, kind of a home-body. Her happy place is laying on the couch with her cats, working on a jigsaw puzzle and watching sit-coms. At school it’s constantly showtime, always talking to people and performing. But off the clock, she’s quiet, more sarcastic and has a slightly darker sense of humor.

From really early on, 10th grade English II and AP Literature teacher Steffannie Alter loved English. Her most formative interest started when she was around 5 years old. Her dad read the entire “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy to her aloud. It took several years. The movie was to come out in theaters when she was in elementary school, so she made a deal with her parents. If she could learn the first 100 words of the school spelling bee list, they would let her go see the movie in theaters, and she did. Sharing these grounding moments with her dad so early on was what made her want to spend all her time with books.

For her bat mitzvah, Alter had cutouts of characters from “Lord Of The Rings” and “Harry Potter.” She is pictured above with the carboard cutout of Frodo from the trilogy “Lord Of The Rings.” (Provided by Steffannie Alter)

After reading the trilogy, she started doing creative writing with rudimentary fantasy based on “Harry Potter” and “The Lord of the Rings.” She then took the path of creative writing at Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, where she had a lot of wonderful teachers feeding her interest. Most were getting their master’s or PhD in creative writing at The University of Houston, so they brought in literature like contemporary poetry and short stories to the classroom. These unique works made her feel connected to the modern literary culture. Literature you don’t typically see in a normal English class. Literature she would’ve never encountered otherwise.

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She spent her time in high school tutoring students in AP World History essay-writing and being a teaching assistant for one of her history teachers. She enjoyed history, but the aspect she loved most was the literature and writing.

Pursuing what she loved, Alter went to Rice University for undergraduate and completed her bachelor’s in English. She minored in Politics, Law and Social Thought, an interdisciplinary minor with a combination of sociology, psychology and political science. It complimented her interest in literature but also made it applicable to the real world. It gave her a chance to talk about and study things that were relevant in the very immediate sense.

English teacher Steffannie Alter in 2005 with her two younger siblings and parents standing in front of the Rice baseball stadium celebrating her dad’s birthday. Both of her siblings and dad are alumni of Rice University. (Provided by Steffannie Alter)

Something Alter really loves about the humanities is that it’s a field that doesn’t have an end to itself. You can’t get a job because of the number of books you’ve read, you can’t build a bridge from having studied poems. But literature makes you think about the world more deeply and it allows you to connect to and understand others. She wants to live in a world reflecting this, where people ask questions. Not a world where everyone can bring Frankenstein’s monster to life but doesn’t think about whether or not they should.

Staying at her alma mater, she completed a combined undergraduate and master’s program in teaching. After earning her undergraduate studies, she started her teaching career at Michael E. DeBakey High School for Health Professionswhile finishing her master’s.

After a year at DeBakey, she became a Cardinal. She completed her student teaching at Bellaire, learning from AP English Language teacher Jennifer Blessington. Working with Blessington helped her think about teaching English as not just books and literature but also the community teaching provides and the perspective of seeing her students as real people. She met excellent educators like former Principal Michael McDonough who greeted her every morning by name even when she was just a student teacher. Her experiences and interactions led to her desire to return to Bellaire and be part of the school culture again.

In 2021 she was hired as a full-time teacher.

In high school, learning is a privilege. It’s something you have the opportunity to do with experienced educators and passionate students who care about being intelligent. This is the expectation Alter has for high school, and it’s the way she approaches the classroom and collaboration with her students as she leads discussion-based classes.

AP Literature and English II teacher Steffannie Alter has been part of the Cardinal Nest since 2021. (Ada Arya)

When she thinks about “why is this my job,” or “why did I devote myself to this career,” the answer reflects how much she values hard work and dedication: the idea of knowledge for the sake of knowledge and being a more empathetic and well-rounded person is important.

It always puts a smile on her face if a student tells her after class that they really enjoyed a topic or that they recommended a book to their parents based on something in class. She once had a student say, “All weekend I was watching TV shows, and I realized I was just thinking about them differently because of the analysis we’ve done.” That was the most rewarding thing; it meant to her she was doing her job right.

A mentor once said to her, “The students will never walk out of the classroom stupider than when they came in.” This confirmed it for her: she would never screw up a child’s life if one of her lessons didn’t go as planned. She was hopefully only going to help them learn.


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  • M

    Marla CooperFeb 9, 2024 at 4:47 pm

    An amazing young woman with so much to offer others!

  • C

    Claire BFeb 4, 2024 at 6:52 pm

    Beautiful writing, Ada! Ms. Alter is such a cool person 🙂

  • R

    RoyFeb 3, 2024 at 7:37 pm

    this a banging article, keep up the good work

  • M

    Ms. BlessingtonFeb 3, 2024 at 4:56 pm

    Great article!! One of the hardest working teachers in the biz!

  • S

    Shyla JogiFeb 3, 2024 at 9:50 am

    Great story Ada! Really in-depth and well written, love how personal it is!

  • J

    Joy XFeb 2, 2024 at 11:04 pm

    I love Ms. Alter so much! Thank you for this story Ada