Alan Wallace admits he is “shocked” at the turn his life has taken — but his quick grin and the greetings he exchanges at Woodland Heights Elementary School suggest it’s a happy shock.
Wallace, 57, a former full-time pastor, is in his second year as the school’s music teacher. His wife, Elizabeth, teaches piano at Howard Payne University, and they have a son and a daughter.
He only recently obtained state certification to teach music, and while he had previous experience as a substitute teacher and tutor, Woodland Heights Elementary is his first job as a state-certified educator.
“I just love the kids — getting to have fun with them and getting them to have an experience with music —that’s fun,” Wallace said minutes after ending an active, fast-paced class with first-grade students.
Principal Bob Turner said the school hit “a home run” by hiring Wallace.
“Mr. Wallace has extensive life experience. I mean, everybody loves him. He is so positive and upbeat,” Turner said.
Wallace is still a pastor, just not full-time. He pastors a small Baptist church in Gouldbusk, a community between Santa Anna and Brady.
Wallace grew up in Bridge City, where he played high school football. He recalled his team playing the Gordon Wood-coached Lions.
“They were the only team that stopped Steve Wooster. We just ran over everybody. When we played the Lions, they just nailed us,” Wallace said.
He said a youth minister from Brownwood named Thell Prueitt — also an HPU theology student — visited Bridge City and influenced him to come to HPU.
Wallace enrolled at HPU in 1968. He started off as a Bible major, but switched to music. Some of his fellow music students pegged him as the next Johnny Mathis because of his smooth, velvet voice.
He got married when he was still in college, and left HPU in 1973.
After college, Wallace served several area colleges as youth and music minister, then attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, where he earned a master’s degree in music.
The Wallaces ended up in Lubbock, where Alan served in two Baptist churches — one in youth, music and education, the other in music and administration. He began feeling a desire to preach.
The family’s next move was to Brownwood, where Wallace became the pastor of Southside Baptist Church in 1991. Wallace resigned after 10 1/2 years, suffering from burnout and stress.
“They were a wonderful congregation,” he said of the Southside church.
For the next few years, Wallace said, he did “odds and ends” including interim ministry, financial planning seminars, substitute teaching and tutoring.
He became state-certified to teach music, and he was offered a job last year as music teacher at Woodland Heights.
“I have just absolutely loved it,” he said.
Even the “cacophony of sounds” in the cafeteria when he has “breakfast duty” are — well, music to his ears.
“I feed off their energy,” he said.
Wallace said he looks for ways to let the children know “they are neat, special kids.”
“Y’all come in!” Wallace called out as students for his first class of the day began arriving.
Children needed no urging to sing, move, tap rhythm sticks, call out answers to his questions.
“OK, what does tempo mean? … Half note … half rest … Excellent job. Way to go,” Wallace said as he interacted with the class.
He said one of his favorite aspects of the job is “watching some of them come out of their shells.”