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Shalonda Blakeney

Bethel Elementary School


1.) Tell us about your role as an educator. What does your typical day look like?


My day to day schedule can look very different, which is what makes this role so exciting! My morning starts with greeting and supervising students as they enter the school. I then respond to emails or meet with teachers to discuss a resource, or project shared. I may receive calls or emails to assist teachers with various technology issues. Also, I assist teachers and administration with struggling students.

I set aside time each day to research resources and best practices for integrating technology in the classroom to assist and support teachers. On a weekly basis, I meet with our Principal and Instructional Coach, attend grade level meetings, and meet with our Administration Team. I also visit classrooms and areas throughout the school to support students and teachers, as well as capture  pictures and videos of student work and instructional learning environments to share within our school and on various social media platforms. I end my day supervising students as they prepare to be dismissed.


2.)  What’s your education philosophy summed up in one sentence?


EVERY child has the ability to achieve their goals when given the proper tools, support, guidance, and most importantly love.


3.) Why did you become an educator?


Growing up, I have always had a genuine love for school and learning. I have been fortunate enough to have parents who instilled the importance of learning, and teachers who have always encouraged and supported my journey from elementary school through college.  Due to  many of these educators, I know and understand the impact a great teacher can have on a child’s life.  I find joy as I “command the attention” of my students and help them learn how to conquer their fears with the hope that they will conquer the world someday!

4.) As an SCASCD Emerging Leader, how do you hope to have a greater effect on education in your community and beyond?


First, I am so excited to be a part of SCASCD Emerging Leaders! I truly believe that anyone can be a leader with or without a title. A leader is someone who takes risks and shares what they have learned with others to inspire, teach, and empower. We all choose to be leaders in our classrooms, schools, and lives. I have seen myself as a leader in the classroom and hope to take this opportunity to continue to learn and grow with other professionals to develop and gain the additional resources, support, and level of knowledge necessary to truly support our teachers. I believe that we can make great improvements in our classrooms by simply supporting one another. It would be beneficial to help facilitate and create an environment where teachers can openly share and support each other within their school community, and even assist teachers with growing their PLN to connect with other educators from around the world. Mostly, I look forward to joining the conversation with other leaders as we continue to take action and continue to advance our profession.


5.) What types of professional development (books, DVDs, webinars, courses) have made a difference in your career?


I am constantly looking for opportunities to learn and grow as a professional. I participate in Twitter chats and have been fortunate enough to participate in various PD sessions offered within our district and outside of our district. The knowledge I gained and continue to gain over the course of my professional career has enabled me to incorporate new strategies into my own classroom, while reigniting my passion for teaching.

I enjoy reading various books about instruction and integrating technology. I have enjoyed reading books from Todd Whitaker and Baruti K. Kafele. Another great read has been Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros and anything from Ron Clark and Marzano. Also, I enjoy listening to various Podcasts and follow various blogs. When I do not feel as though that is enough, I participate in various online courses. I recently finished a cohort offered by our district through Cult of Pedagogy, which was AMAZING!

Teaching is better when you can share and discover the endless possibilities with others who share your passion and dedication. I have thoroughly enjoyed participating and planning with EdCamp Palmetto and EdCamp Greenville. Since I believe in creating a classroom that embodies a supportive learning environment and building a learning community that motivates and engages students, these are the books, blogs, podcasts, and professional development opportunities that have made the greatest impact on my career.


6.) Was there a pivotal moment when you realized your career choice in education was the correct one? Describe that time.   


It is hard to only focus on one moment. There have been many moments from earning the love and respect of a challenging student to seeing a child finally understand a topic that was too difficult in the beginning. I have had students who have struggled academically and some who have always been labeled as “too difficult” until they enter my classroom. I have not only taught lessons, but also learned many lessons from my students. Sadly, I have had to support and console my students through a difficult loss of a classmate. Also, I have watched and helped my students make tremendous gains and celebrated the growth of each individual child. Everyone knows Rita Pearson and her quote “every child deserves a CHAMPION”. I myself always strive to be a champion for not only the students in my classroom, but any child who needs someone in their corner to push and encourage them to want more and do better. With every passing day of every school year, I receive affirmation that I made one of the best career choices when I CHOSE to become an EDUCATOR.


7.) If you could make one major change in education, what would it be?


If I could make one major change in education, it would be to shift the pendulum from high stakes testing to more of a focus on student growth. I would want to change the destructive influence high stakes testing has on student achievement and teacher accountability. A student’s and teacher’s self worth should not only equate to the end of year score a child makes on their standardized test.


8.) What is your most rewarding experience as an educator?


Some of my most rewarding experiences as an educator have been a compilation of moments. They vary from watching my students’ growth, both academically and socially. I have had students make huge gains in Reading and Math. Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with a student I taught in second grade who was very shy and spoke little English. This student is now a model student and making the Honor Roll in middle school. At the end of the day, knowing that I have given my all to each and every child that has entered my classroom is the reward.

Eight Questions For SCASCD Emerging Leaders

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