2015 National Teacher of the Year Profile:
Palo Duro High School
“Teaching chose me, but I tried everything I could think of to avoid its call: disc jockey, medical assistant, pet babysitter for the rich, and finally, finally a teacher.”
Although she took many roads to get where she is today, Shanna Peeples has always felt an affinity with the classroom. As a student, Shanna had teachers that gave her hope through reading and writing. Today, she inspires that same hope in all of her students. Shanna works with kids from every walk of life, many of whom have experienced trauma, and their stories and backgrounds have shaped her into the kind of teacher she is. Empathetic and understanding, she teaches her students life skills and knowledge through literacy like social and emotional development, more resilience to stress, and greater life satisfaction. She believes creating innovators and encouraging critical thinking will help children get the most out of school and life.
With twelve years of teaching experience under her belt, she exercises a strong commitment to her students and practices kindness in every lesson. By taking risks in her teaching methods, she works to bridge the gap between her student’s unique learning abilities and grade-level lesson plans. Her teaching philosophy involves “understanding by design,” in that the person doing the work is the person doing the learning. This philosophy led one of her students to use their experience as an entrance essay into Harvard, while other students created a campaign to raise awareness about breast cancer to underserved women in their local community.
Besides working with students, Shanna also collaborates with and mentors other teachers and support staff to achieve campus and departmental goals. She wants teachers to “remember that they are artists of human potential.” By leading intensive writing institutes for K-12 teachers as a literacy trainer, she cultivates classroom commitment for her fellow teachers and challenges them to be the best educators they can be.
“I choose to think that I represent the people who love what they do. Who are willing to do whatever it takes to help kids. Who stay after school for hours. Who steal time from their own families to help our kids. Who may be the only person that shows up at games for a kid, or at plays, at concerts. For many kids, teachers are the only person for them. And so to me, the title of Teacher of the Year is a way for me to always talk about what teachers do for our kids.”
As the 2015 National Teacher of the Year, Shanna represents teachers all over the nation who never shy away from a challenge, who have a sincere passion for improving student’s lives, and who hone their craft through methods that are carefully researched, collaborative, and sometimes necessarily unconventional.
“You have to ignore it when a child says, “I don’t want to,” because what they’re really saying is, “I don’t think I can and I need you to believe in me until I can believe in myself.”
Congratulations, Shanna. And thank you for all you do for students.