Greetings from Massachusetts!
My name is Shannon McGuire, and I have been teaching for over two decades. However, my path to teaching was definitely not typical. I graduated high school in Massachusetts in the early 90s, and while I was a good student, I didn’t really enjoy school. I decided to go to Grinnell College in Iowa, a small, intense Liberal Arts School. I started studying math as it was always a subject I felt comfortable in. But, I wound up getting really involved in my French studies. I became a French major and developed a focus on North African French Literature. Upon graduation, I received a teaching fellowship in France. My first real teaching experience was teaching English in a French Middle School.
When my fellowship was complete, I returned to Massachusetts. I enjoyed working individually with people more than anything about my initial teaching experience. I found a job working in a residential home for adults with disabilities. This work ignited a passion in me for the field of Special Education. I enrolled in a post-baccalaureate degree in Special Education and began working as a Special Needs Teaching Assistant. Then, I became a teacher in a self-contained classroom in a residential school for students with significant behavioral disorders. While I loved this work, it was physically demanding and dangerous at times, and I was recently married and looking to start a family and knew I needed to find something less intense.
My next teaching position was in a small, local Massachusetts high school as a Special Education teacher. I started in the early 2000s as a self-contained teacher, and through the next decade, I transitioned with the program to an inclusion co-teacher in the math department. I completed my Master’s in Special Education. During this time, I also began doing much of the student testing for our district and training new teachers. I was spending less and less time in the actual classroom, while I knew I wanted to spend more time in the classroom. One of the teachers I had co-taught math with for years was retiring and said to me, jokingly, I think, that I should get certified in math and take her position. However, I felt this actually might be the right thing to do, and I could be back in the classroom full-time, so that is exactly what I did.
After 14 years at that small, rural high school (nine as a Special Education teacher and six as a math teacher), a former colleague reached out to me about a math teacher opening at a large, urban vocational-technical high school where he teaches science. He felt I would be a good fit at this school and was really happy there. I was apprehensive about leaving a small school where I felt so comfortable. The school I was in had less than 40 teachers total, and this new school had over 25 just in the math department. I was in my early 40s and a bit anxious about starting over, but I made the leap.
Within a month, I felt I was in the school I would retire from, where I would finish my teaching career. I have been a math teacher at Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School for the past seven years. I have another ten years or so left in my teaching career, and there is no place that I would rather be. Our school draws from three local communities and has over 2,000 students. Many students come to our school with a chronic academic history of underperforming. I have developed a course that struggling students, not just those on IEPs, take concurrently with their sophomore Geometry class for one trimester that dives deep into their mislearnings and gaps as math learners. This course has had tremendous success in helping students make great gains in math performance. I also teach senior Statistics & Probability, a fourth-year math elective.
Every once in a while someone learns about my degree in French literature and wonders how that connects to teaching math. Over the years, that connection has become fairly clear to me. I always loved math but didn’t have to work hard to learn. My work with French was from the bottom up. I knew absolutely nothing and worked my way to becoming a fluent speaker and reader. This work taught me more about the learning process than I could have learned in formal education studies. I learned how to learn and therefore learned how to teach.
Throughout these transitions, I have always embraced and enjoyed integrating technology into the classroom. I served as a Technology Mentor at that small, rural high school. In this stipend position, I offered support to other teachers on tech tools like online gradebook applications and smartboards. At my new school, I had much more access to technology. I developed many interactive and individualized lessons using technology. In March 2020, our district accelerated its plans to become a 1:1 district in response to remote learning. I worked with the principal and the director of technology to create professional development to support teachers in our district with the rapid switch to technology-based education. In September 2020, I became a Google Certified educator while continuing to develop and implement technology professional development for my colleagues. As we transitioned back to in-person learning from remote learning, I have found it reinvigorating to use the knowledge gained during this time to create more blended learning lessons. I have about a decade left in my teaching career, and I think it is an exciting and innovative time to be an educator.
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