Featured Teacher Spotlight: Get to Know Jane Shiu

Following the reveal of our Teacher Feature each Data Day, we’ll be posting interviews with each of our featured teachers so that you can get to know more about them: what led them to teaching, the techniques they use in their classroom, and the innovative lessons and projects they are implementing this year.

This month, our Featured Teacher Spotlight is filled with so many interesting facts and helpful tidbits that we’ve decided to split it up into two parts. Today, you’ll get to know Jane Shiu, the first Teacher Feature of the 2014-2015 school year. Come back in a few days for Part 2 of this post to learn more about Jane’s course, her goals, and how you can implement similar strategies in your own classroom.

How did you get into teaching?

I did TFA when I graduated college. I was a Public Policy and International Studies major and I was really interested in education policy. I thought I would do TFA and teach for 2-3 years and go back to school for law and public policy and affect education change through policy or litigation. But then I realized that I really liked teaching, and I wasn’t done with teaching. So I am still here!

Describe for our audience the course you teach and the purpose of it.

I teach Computer Literacy to juniors and seniors at Sci Academy. The big goal for my course is to get our scholars to not only have the computer skills but also the familiarity and comfort with computers for them to be able to tackle future projects in not only college but also in life. For example, in the first week, I emphasize that we are learning how to send professional emails not just for school, but to future employers. I want them to have enough familiarity and confidence with computers that if their job 10 years from now has a new computer program, they know they can figure it out.

You’ve been teaching for 7 years. What has sustained you in teaching, while many people who began teaching with you are no longer in the classroom?

At this point, Sci Academy has sustained me in teaching. For me, it’s about the school’s culture. This is my third school. I loved my placement school, but it was much more rural than I envisioned being for a long time, then I was at a different charter school that, while it had high academic expectations, had a negative culture for children and staff which made it impossible to meet the academic goals. It was a really unsafe place. I came to Sci, where I found high standards for both academics and behavior, a really supportive environment for kids and adults, and a culture in which people embrace challenges and where you’re pushed to be your best self and to take on new challenges. We’re never satisfied, we are constantly trying to get better and better.

I think a big piece of why I’m still teaching is that this [Sci Academy] is a place that encourages you to try new things and not just settle. It encourages you to find other opportunities, other ways to challenge yourself. At Sci, if you are doing really well, then you are given free reign to design your class as you see fit. You have a lot of autonomy here if you have proven that you are capable of producing strong results. This autonomy has allowed me to innovate and try new things that I wouldn’t have been able to do at other schools.

Who’s that one kid who has just grown so much, that his/her story will stick with you forever?

Keith Davis’s story is pretty incredible. He was one of my advisees who just graduated. He came in as a 17 year old freshman and graduated at 22. He had several moments when he thought he couldn’t do this and wanted to give up. He’s now at SUNO and is doing very well in SUNO’s Honore program. He’s a kid that worked extremely hard to get where he is now. In fact, he was on Fall Break last week and came back to visit. He even came to my new advisory and told them about his experiences at Sci and in college now. The growth he has made over four years is incredible — if someone were to tell me (or Keith) four years ago that he would be returning to Sci to explain the impact that Sci had on his life and how important education is, I wouldn’t believe them.

What do you love most about coming to work everyday?

I love our kids, and I love that we help change lives. I love that we help change kids’ futures. Interacting with and pushing our scholars gives me a lot of energy. I love our kids, and I love what we do.

What was your most embarrassing teaching moment?

Hmm. At this point, I don’t think I get terribly embarrassed. I think a good teacher has to be able to handle crazy, potentially embarrassing moments. I’m sure I had embarrassing moments my first few years but I’ve probably blocked them from memory at this point…

Who was your favorite teacher when you were growing up and why?

Ms. Mueller was my 12th grade AP English teacher and my newspaper mentor. She was very transparent and honest with us about what we needed to do, and made reading and writing really fun because she was so passionate.

Who is a teacher you admire and why?

Within Sci Academy, Jim Kline. Easy answer. He is really thoughtful and deliberate both about what our kids need to know, and, just as importantly, is also really relentless in getting that to happen. He sets very clear expectations for his kids and also for his team. It’s one thing to be a really strong classroom teacher, but it’s another thing to be leading your school and making significant changes to what we do. That’s not common.

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