Today I am writing about a teacher and a school that I greatly admire. I have had a work study job for four years as a Literacy/Math Tutor (essentially a teacher’s aide) at Irish Elementary School, and I have had the wonderful opportunity to work with Mrs. Shaunda Stahl for all four years.
My freshman year, I received work study at CSU and could not find a job to save my life. I desperately needed the money and I knew if I did not find a job and use my work study I would not be awarded work study in the future. In a panic I called Student Employment Services at CSU and begged them to help me find a job. Luckily there was a job opening at an elementary school (that I had never heard of) in Fort Collins. Irish Elementary is located in between Overland and Taft on Vine (just in case you cared). The population at Irish is mostly under the poverty line and many students speak Spanish as their home language. To accommodate this many grades have a dual language option, this not only helps the native Spanish speakers, but allows native English speakers a chance to learn Spanish as well. Walking in on my first day I had no idea about any of this, all I knew was I was working in a kindergarten class and making over $9 an hour. Sweet gig right? How hard could it be? It was HARD! Did you know that by the end of the year kindergarteners are expected to be writing not only full sentences, but three or four strung together. Kindergarteners are expected to be reading books! Anyways that is not the point I am trying to make.
I worked with Shaunda for two years in kindergarten and I watched a woman with incredible patience and caring teach kids from all backgrounds and needs and bring them as far as she possibly could in their education. There were many students with IEPs and every student was at a different level; Shaunda made sure that each student had an individualized learning plan so she could meet their needs in class every day.
When Shaunda decided to move up to fourth grade, I was ecstatic. As much fun as kindergarten was I was ready to work with students who didn’t need to be reminded to wash their hands after using the restroom (or so I thought). Unfortunately Shaunda was on maternity leave for the first three months of school last year and she had a permanent sub who, in my opinion, only managed to screw everything up. Shaunda came back to a chaos filled classroom, and in a few short weeks managed to build relationships with each and every student and hold a commanding presence in a room full of kids who had had complete control for the past few months. These kids had never had homework before Shaunda came back. It was an amazing change and I watched students grow and flourish all year with the help of Shaunda and her handy dandy student teacher, Dan. Last year was fun I was able to really develop relationships with the students in the class, I did one on one teaching and small groups and the kids and I really got along. I was able to help a little boy, who was at a Kindergarten reading level, reach a third grade reading level in just one year!
Now this year, given we are only into the third week of school but already I see amazing things happening. The first day of school I walked into her classroom and Shaunda nearly knocked the coffee right out of my hands (we have an addiction I get it everyday on my lunch hour for us) going in for a hug. She looked me in the face and said, “Well, this year should be interesting. I have 7 IEPs in a class of 12.” This was shocking to me, over half the class had some sort of Individual Education Program, three students with severe behavior problems, and two deaf students. All in ONE classroom with ONE certified teacher. Are you freakin’ kidding me? So I felt like this year was going to be impossible, but I was wrong. These students want to learn, even when they are having trouble Shaunda makes learning possible for everyone at their own level. The class has goals that they all want to reach together, and I see them working their hardest every day (maybe not the whole day, but they do try).
Only three weeks in and the kids ask where I am on the days I am not there. I walk in and get hugs and smiles. This is why I want to be a teacher, because I know that even in a class with so much going on, one adult can make a difference in the lives of each and every student. It has only been three weeks and Shaunda’s students love her and she loves them. Shaunda is one of the many reasons that I am still on the road I am today, Shaunda has taught me how to love students with a passion. She loves the students that no one else will take the time to care about, she is a person that I strive to be like every day.