By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor
Shanna Middleton grew up in Ann Arbor, and attended King Elementary from kindergarten to third grade. When her family—including parents and two younger brothers—moved across town, she attended Lakewood from fourth to sixth grade. She then went on to St. Thomas for middle school and graduated from Gabriel Richard.
Middleton’s parents were both social workers, and they instilled in her and her brothers the importance of choosing a profession that had social value. She became a teacher, one brother is a social worker, and the other, a doctor.
Middleton’s first teaching job was in Boulder, Colorado, where she had studied at the University of Colorado. After working in early childhood education for 10 years in Boulder, she returned to Michigan and earned a master’s in education from Wayne State. She has taught in Ann Arbor Public Schools for the 22 years. She has been at Wines for the last 20; 19 years as a Kindergarten teacher and this year became the Young 5’s teacher at Wines – which she loves.
Middleton lives in Ann Arbor with her husband, Doug, their daughter, Claire, and their son, Nicholas, both of whom attended Eberwhite, Slauson, and Community. Claire is a senior at Community, and she will join Nicholas next year at Kalamazoo College where he is currently a junior.
What was always written on your report card in grade school? That I LOVED to talk and was too social. “If only she would stop talking …”
What inspired you to become a teacher? I always knew that I wanted to be a teacher. I lived right around the corner from Lakewood. There was an evening custodian, her name was Betty Caan. I would sometimes go to Lakewood in the evening and find her. As she cleaned rooms she would let me write on the boards and she would ask questions, I knew then that teaching was my path. She made me realize how much I enjoyed teaching. I also learned from Ms. Caan the importance of every job in a school, she was always so kind and very hardworking.
What’s the best compliment anyone could give you? I am happy when everyone feels welcome and comfortable in my classroom. I want my classroom to be welcoming for every individual who steps into my class.
In your 22 years in AAPS, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned about teaching? About learning? The most important thing that I have learned in my 22 years of teaching is the value of each student bringing something unique to our class. When one student is missing a day of school, I almost always hear their classmates talking about how it does not feel the same when that friend is not there. I have also grown as a learner by watching my colleagues and getting ideas and inspiration from them on how to grow my classroom and push my students. I also learn from the interns that work in my classroom each year, they keep me in the loop of new educational practice.
Why did you decide to work at Wines? I have been very lucky to have spent the last 20 years at Wines. I was hired by Patty DeYoung and now work for her son David DeYoung – I have never wanted to go to another school!
What makes teaching there unique? Wines is a special school with engaged families and an amazing staff. The community at Wines continues to grow and evolve making it a great workplace.
Describe an average workday. Teaching Young Fives is busy and non-stop. I normally get to Wines about an hour early because I like to have some time with my student teacher and chat with my colleagues. I always start my day greeting each student by name and making an immediate connection. Our days are filled with read-a-louds, centers, writing, reading, outside and specials. It goes by quickly!
What advice would you give to a first-year teacher? I would tell a first-year teacher that everything will not always work out as you plan, being flexible is important. Collaborating with your colleagues, grade level or otherwise makes the job more fun, interesting and easier.
What’s the happiest part of your day? I love the first part of the morning. Greeting my students at the beginning of the day is an important part of setting the tone for the day. This small interaction can set the tone for the day – it is a busy time as my students connect with each other, complete morning work and share stories.
How does teaching Young Fives compare to teaching kindergarten? In Young Fives, you are able to spend more time thinking about building social and emotional skills. I feel like I have the luxury of time with these kids; we have a lot of learning we accomplish daily. I think Young Fives is an extraordinary program that sets up students as engaged learners.
What do you know about teaching now that you wish you’d known that first year? I wish I could have understood that everything does not always have to be perfect. I now know that as long as I am a reflective teacher and intentional with my instruction that it is important. I am still learning and developing as a teacher.
How do you keep students engaged? I try and get to know my students on a personal level so I can connect with them in other ways than academically. I like to know what my students like to play with, who their brothers and sisters are, if they play sports or are in clubs, etc. This allows me to engage each student separately and it shows that we both care about each other and this builds our community.
What is the most rewarding part of teaching? Young Fives are excited about everything! I love their enthusiasm and desire to learn because this is my first year teaching this curriculum it is all new for me too! I am lucky that I have been at the same school, the most rewarding moments come when former students come by and share what they are doing. I always love to hear about what they are up to now!
What do you wish everyone realized about the work of a teacher? The first thing is that teaching is rewarding in many different ways, the and other thing is the time teachers spend preparing for the time they are with their class. There is really no “off” time, you are thinking about your students and instruction often. All teachers are very intentional with their planning and they make it tailored to each student.
How do you recharge? I like to read, go to movies, bake, and spend time with my family and friends.
What is unique about working at Wines? The unique thing about Wines is I have worked with some colleagues for 20 years!
How do you spend your summers? Our family loves to go up north and it is a favorite part of the summer, we have been doing this since our kids were young. I love taking trips, reading, and relaxing.
What’s most exciting about your professional life right now? The most exciting part of my professional life is the opportunity to teach Young Fives after teaching Kindergarten for my whole career. The group of Young Fives teachers is supportive, encouraging, helpful, and collaborative. Because most schools have only one Young Fives classroom, the original Young Fives teachers have been generous with sharing their knowledge and offering advice. I am excited about the new challenge!
Shanna – you are such an inspiration❗️
I loved this article. Thank you for acknowledging an extraordinary teacher and for introducing us to a new program in Education.
Shanna is simply an exceptional person. She is so KIND, one of the best qualities in a teacher, especially one who teaches the very young. Congratulations on this honor, Shanna!
So proud of my daughter!