Recipient of 2015 National Teacher of the year Award speaks at Kiva

Alexandra Seibt

The 2015 National Teacher of the Year, Shanna Peeples, presented a speech about innovation to an audience of about 80 people in the Kiva on Wednesday, as a part of the Gerald H. Read Center for International and Intercultural Education’s Distinguished Lecture series.

Peeples is an English as a Second Language teacher to refugee and immigrant students at the junior level at Palo Duro High School in Amarillo, Texas. According to the Council of Chief State School Offices website, the winner is chosen from among the State Teachers of the Year by a national selection committee representing the major education organizations in the country.

“It’s amazing, just very humbling,” Peeples said. “Very overwhelming when you consider there’s 3 million teachers in the United States and you somehow are the representative of that kind of work.”

Peeples’ speech was titled, “Innovation: It’s About Time.” She spoke about her personal experiences with topics such as her first year of teaching, her experience traveling to Middle Eastern countries of Lebanon, Israel and Palestine. Lastly, Peebles mentioned her theories of time, trust and teachers used as coaches for other teachers.

“The thing about innovation, when you talk about that in education circles people think you mean technology, and no offense to technology people, but wheeling in a cart full of $90,000 worth of iPads is not going to keep my kids out of the slaughterhouse or the truck wash. That’s not what’s going to help them,” Peeples said. “What’s going to help them is if you let me work with teachers who have had success. If you let me share the success that I’ve had as a teacher with other teachers.”

Linda Robertson, the outreach program director for the Center for International and Intercultural Education, coordinated the event.

“Each year we host, maybe 20 or 30 years we’ve been having the National Teacher of the Year, but because she particularly worked with the refugee population, we tried to make the event a celebration of people who help celebrate learning English around the world,” Robertson said.

The event was free and open to the public. Many faculty and staff of the College of Education, Health and Human Services, teachers from Akron public schools, people from the Akron Institute and College of Education, Health and Human Services Students were in attendance for the event.

“One thing that I took away from her (Peeples’) speech that I would like to take into my first year of teaching, and also my other years teaching, is the fact that we need to work together as a team of teachers,” said Allison McGhee, president of Kappa Delta Pi and a senior early childhood education major.

“If I’m having an issue in my classroom, or a challenge, I’m not going to give up. I’m going to go to teachers that have experience or success with that problem and talk with them.”

Even as 2015 National Teacher of the Year, Peeples faces challenges of her own.

“The biggest challenges are always the people who believe that somehow we know something about a person based on their test score rather than who they are as a person,” Peeples said.

“And my challenge has been, to anyone who will listen to me, how can we do better about knowing what people can do and how they can create and communicate and collaborate. That’s what I want to see and that’s what I don’t think we do well.”

Alexandra Seibt is the EHHS reporter for The Kent Stater, contact her at [email protected]