Faculty & Staff Spotlight

Allen Shull

Allen Shull
English & Modern Foreign Language Lecturer
UTM Parsons Center - Educational Outreach


I grew up in Henderson, Tennessee, the son of an English professor and a librarian at Freed-Hardeman University. Unsurprisingly, I was raised to love reading. From being read stories to reading stories on my own, my nose was in science fiction and fantasy books through much of my early life—aside from climbing trees and playing Nintendo.

In high school, I fell in love with computers during the late-90s internet boom and decided to be a computer science major at Freed-Hardeman, which lasted all of two years. For those that can grok it, it’s great, but loops, stacks, and pointers proved to be my undoing, and I switched to English. I was a little shy, and only decided I wanted to be a teacher after giving a film class presentation on cinematography, where I learned that if I'm passionate about something, I find it easier to explain to people why it’s awesome.

To further that goal, I went to grad school at MTSU to get an M.A., really digging into medieval English language and literature. After getting married and a brief stint working as a movie projectionist and a legal secretary, I decided to teach high school. To do so, I returned to Freed-Hardeman for a Master’s degree in Education, where I finally learned a little about pedagogy. However, just as soon as I arrived, I learned that UT Martin needed an adjunct to teach a couple of sections of English composition to dual-enrollment high school students. A semester later, a night class opened up at the Selmer campus. The next year, I became a full-time instructor at the new Parsons location, still meeting for night classes at Riverside High School. Eight years later, I now have two children and seem mostly to be managing.

Though I enjoy traveling, I love the life in small-town West Tennessee. I love living and teaching somewhere where trees are more common than sidewalks, where most everybody is somebody’s cousin, and where “barbecue” most firmly means “pulled pork with a thin vinegar-based spicy red pepper sauce, served with coleslaw.”

In teaching writing and literature, I teach my students to focus on personal choices and stories. To read deeply and critically involves both an active speaker and an active hearer. I also emphasize that reason, respect, and politeness must temper disagreement, and that, as Samuel Johnson said, “What is written without effort is read without pleasure.”  To me, college is a place of opportunity for growth, and so UT Martin, and the extended campus in particular, is a place where students can structure their own development and improve their communities. I challenge my students to grow with purpose, to plan to change for the better.

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