Guest Educator Column — Sheila Carves, Ferguson-Florissant

Sheila Carves with tortoise

“The teacher matters…” is a simple yet powerful quote by John Hattie that I have found useful to motivate, encourage and empower the students, teachers and parents that I serve in the Ferguson-Florissant School District (FFSD) and internationally.

I grew up in similar demographics as the students in my district. I didn’t have a lot of support from home; however, I was the first in my family to graduate from college. I can distinctly remember my teachers Ms. Khan (kindergarten) and Mr. Andrews (middle school math) and the impact they had on my life. They had high expectations for ALL students, and their passion brought joy into the classroom. This style of teaching had an extraordinary way of igniting the passion inside me to become a teacher.

Students want to do more and be more because of positive relationships that are intentional and purposeful. Rita Pierson stated  in her TED Talk Every Kid Needs a Champion, “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.” I firmly believe we must take the time to understand and connect to the families we serve with a spirit of excellence.

I was an elementary classroom teacher for nine years in FFSD, after completing eight years in St. Louis Public Schools. Currently, I am the assistant principal at Airport Elementary School. I have the opportunity to work and collaborate with a dynamic leadership team that is dedicated to academic gains and supervision for transformation. I actively participate with analyzing academic and behavioral data which guides the targeted instructional areas. I work closely with the principal and staff to increase parental involvement through weekly at-home reading tasks and monthly Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) meetings.

This new role has given me the opportunity to coach and model researched-based, best instructional practices for teachers. Recently, I led a teachers’ workshop at the district’s Little Creek Nature Area about my summer’s field experience at Tyson Research Center and the St. Louis Zoo Box Turtle Project. The significance of the workshop was to show teachers a way to teach the Missouri Learning Standards in a fun, creative way.

We need to get students outside to connect with nature. There are many lessons to be learned from box turtles: studying animal movement, ecology and character traits of the turtles. My involvement with the box turtle project led to a week of study in the Galapagos Islands to work with tortoises. I learned education techniques that I shared with the teachers in my district. FFSD and the U.S. National Science Foundation helped to make this once-in-a-lifetime educational experience possible.

I am a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated, an organization that promotes academic excellence and community service. The students involved in the sorority’s educational development program are sending school supplies to the Galapagos Islands to support the students in the Ecology Project International Program.

There are various challenges encountered in the field of education, but I view challenges as an opportunity. I love my job! I support teachers, facilitate professional development, and work with parents and community partners to ensure an effective education for ALL students. I’m blessed to be a part of this great work.