Introducing David Shea to bring in the New Year as our January Teacher Spotlight!
David Shea is an ESOL/Adult Education Teacher for Maplewood Career Center based in Ravenna, Ohio. Shea is an excellent example of the diverse paths students often take to successful teaching careers. He received his BA in Comparative Politics and Philosophy from the University of Akron and currently teaches English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) as well as Language Arts and Math for Adult Education. Here is Shea’s own description of his local background: “I was born and raised in Northeast Ohio and have a deep-rooted love for this community and its people. When I’m not teaching (or prepping for my classes), I enjoy reading, comic books/graphic novels, foreign films, and heavy metal. I also enjoy the pain of watching Cleveland’s sports teams continuously disappoint.”
What inspired you to become a teacher?
I have to be honest, here. I had no intentions of becoming a teacher. I studied Political Science and philosophy in school; I graduated right when the recession hit. I needed work, so I took a job tutoring a Chinese man (I also studied Mandarin Chinese in college) who was studying for the citizenship test. Over time, I’ve accumulated all the necessary accreditations (i.e. ESOL), but I did not set out to be an educator.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
The people. I get a chance, every day, to travel around the world right in my classroom. My students teach me as much as I could ever hope to teach them. Then, to have a student walk into my classroom with the ability only to say “Hello” and “Goodbye” in English and leave with the ability to tell me about his/her homeland, the customs and the food is such a great feeling.
What are the biggest challenges you face as a teacher?
I’ve always taught a mixed-level classroom. I also work in an ‘open enrollment’ environment and my students tend to be transient and/or peripatetic. So the challenge for me is to design individual curriculums based on the specific needs of the student, while also keeping my classes fun and interactive, particularly in terms of student interaction.
What are your favorite ways to incorporate primary sources and/or technology in your lessons?
The United States Constitution, for example, is a great conversation starter, particularly with intermediate to advanced students. It is always exciting to compare and contrast the United States with other countries; and coming from a Political Science background, governmental processes are fascinating to me.
As far as technology goes, it is an integral part of classroom, in particular tablets and smart- phones. My goal is to dedicate classroom time to giving my students the tools they need to help themselves, given the fact that most of their time is spent outside the classroom, and technology is a wonderful way to do that. One specific example of technology we use daily is Google Translate; this has been huge! All of my students have smart phones, so with the push of a button, they can say any word and have it translated instantly. It works in both directions, so I use it too. Google Drive is also a really helpful tool. My students and I share a lot of Audacity (free recording software) files for pronunciation (which I prefer my students practice at home), and sometimes the files can be quite large, so Drive helps. I’m also a huge advocate for using social media outside the classroom. I know this is fairly controversial, but I really believe that we have an opportunity to connect with students outside the classroom by using technology that they’re already using. For instance, I’m in the process of starting a class Instagram.
What is the most important thing you learned in your teacher education program?
That English language learners are not a monolith (I would imagine that the same can be said for all learners, no matter the subject). Theory is great, but one needs to have the flexibility to adjust a lesson accordingly, based individual needs and classroom dynamics.
What advice would you give a student interested in becoming a Social Studies teacher?
Teaching is ultimately about serving people; it is hard work, you’ll put in a lot of hours “off the clock” (at least I do), and you won’t get rich from it (at least I haven’t yet). However, if you dedicate yourself to the idea that you’re helping people, or importantly, that one person that really needs yourself, it’s totally worth it.