Hi! I'm Shea
I grew up on a remote barrier island off the coast of North Carolina. Though small and somewhat isolated, I was fortunate to attend school in one of the top school districts in the state. I was taught by incredible teachers who crafted amazing lessons, provided authentic opportunities to grow, and fostered a genuine love of learning in their students. I was in a bubble, and I didn't even know it.
I graduated high school in 2006 and went on to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (go Tarheels!) where, after much consideration, I decided to pursue a degree in Elementary Education (with a Spanish minor). I was soon placed in a classroom at a low income elementary school in Durham. This was the first time I realized how privileged my own school experience had been and I was more eager than ever to pursue the calling to become a teacher. I could think of no other profession that would make as big an impact on the future of our world.
On a trip home from college, I ran into my old 4th grade teacher (who ranks highly on my list of favorite teachers) and proudly proclaimed that I was going to be a teacher too. A look of genuine concern came over him. "Why?" was his response. "Sorry," he quickly caught himself, "it's just not what it used to be." I would be lying if I said I wasn't shaken by this encounter. But still, I carried on, more convinced than ever that I was on the right path. If an institution this important was failing, then surely it needed someone like me, someone determined to change the world for the better.
One day, in the fall of 2009, I unassumingly walked into my Sociology of Education class and ran headlong into another rude awakening. My professor, a very outspoken Black woman who regularly opened my eyes to the brutal realities of the world in ways that I had never dared consider inside my bubble, was in a rare state. "Do you all even know what's happening?" she said loudly to quell the chatter as students settled into their seats. We did not, but the hush that fell over the room was palpable. "None of you are going to get a job when you graduate now." I'll never forget those words. I must confess I didn't believe her at the time, but her warning turned out to be painfully true. The recession was in full swing and our naiveté could only shield us for so long.
After graduating in 2010, I moved to live with my sister in an old, drafty house in downtown Wilmington, NC. I began the hunt for a teaching job which quickly turned into a hunt for a waitressing job which quickly ended in despair. When my sister, with two college degrees, was turned down after applying to work a minimum wage grocery store job, I all but threw in the towel. "None of you are going to get a job when you graduate now," played on repeat. It was so incredibly unfair. To have worked this hard, have this much passion... all for nothing. All for mistakes other people had made.
After months of pedaling resumes to every elementary school in Wilmington (none of which were even hiring) I was finally hired to work as a teacher at a psychiatric residential treatment facility for children. If you don't know what that is (I didn't) it's essentially a home for children with mental health and behavior problems so severe, they are not able to attend school or be cared for by their caretakers. Often it is government mandated, other times parents and guardians forfeit the child because the situation has spiraled so far out of their control. I'll spare you the horrific details and jump ahead here to say that this was in no way an ideal work environment for a first year teacher fresh out of college. I have scars (physical but also mental/emotional, I'm sure) to show for it. Whatever shred of that bubble remaining after college was completely obliterated at this point BUT my desire to teach refused to waver. These children were damaged, some of them beyond repair. The world had completely failed them. I would not fail them too.
A year after beginning this first unconventional teaching job, life called me home to the Outer Banks where I once again struggled to find a position. I applied for a 3rd grade teaching position and was turned down. I later learned the job had gone to the woman who had been my own 3rd grade teacher. That's what I was up against. In the end, it was my Spanish minor that got me a position as Spanish teacher at my old elementary school. I was now colleagues with some of my old teachers who were still there, continuing to change lives after all these years. They inspired me in entirely new ways now. Spanish soon evolved into 4th grade which I taught for 7 years and absolutely loved. I achieved National Board certification in 2017.
Life once again led me in another direction in 2021 when I made the almost impossible decision to leave the classroom, for now, and focus on creating lessons and resources for other teachers. Many outside of the profession don't realize that teachers often aren't provided with text books and curriculum materials. They are more or less on their own when it comes to finding resources to use in the classroom. As a teacher, I was often unsatisfied with whatever lesson materials I managed to scrounge up and opted to make my own. I soon discovered that I absolutely LOVED creating lessons and activities for my students. It became one of my favorite parts of the job, I just wished I had more time to do it.
Stepping out of the classroom to focus on creating full time has been a difficult transition. At first, I felt like I was abandoning my passion, the calling I had worked so hard and faced so much adversity for. I felt like I was forfeiting my very identity, to be honest. After some time, though, I began to realize just how big an impact my career change was having on the world. I often get feedback from teachers worldwide about how much my resources have helped them and how much their students love the activities I've created. Now, more than ever, I inspire children to love learning with authentic, hands-on experiences that keep them engaged and save their teachers precious time and energy. The resources I create reach way outside the bubble, to the children who need them most. Will I return to the classroom someday? Possibly. But for now, I am happy to be putting just a little bit of good out into a world that can be so unyieldingly harsh. To start that ripple is all I've ever wanted.