NEW HAVEN — Fourth grade New Haven Elementary School teacher Shayla Blackshire has been chosen by the Stewart-Johnson V.F.W. Post 9926 of Mason as “Teacher of the Year.”
Ray Varian, V.F.W. Senior Vice Commander, recently presented Blackshire with a certificate, surrounded by her students and Principal Stacy Bissell. She will also be honored at the post’s Loyalty Day Dinner in May.
Varian said Blackshire was chosen for the award because of her enthusiasm and her willingness to help others.
“She is a wonderful teacher,” said Varian. “She is always doing projects with her class, and as an outdoorsman, I am especially impressed with her ‘Trout in the Classroom’ program.”
Blackshire has been recognized both locally and statewide for her participation in the trout project. Each year, students at the school raise the trout from eggs, then later travel to Kanawha County to release the fish into their natural habitat. A live stream is provided on the school’s website where both students, as well as parents, can watch their growth.
Principal Bissell describes Blackshire as a “ball of energy” who is always doing new things with the kids.
“She started the ‘Litter for Literacy’ program in conjunction with the local library, and has been recognized by the Department of Environmental Protection,” said Bissell.
This program encourages both recycling and reading. For a certain amount of recyclable materials brought into the school, the student can go to the New Haven Library and choose a new book to keep.
Another fun and educational program her fourth graders participate in each spring is hatching chicks from eggs. The students study the life cycle of chicks while caring for the eggs in the incubators. Once the eggs hatch, the children are rewarded with a chick to take home.
Blackshire has received numerous other awards, including Mason County Teacher of the Year for 2016-2017, the Horace Mann Teacher of the Year, Horace Mann Apple Award, and Teacher of the Quarter.
“I honestly love walking into my classroom every day,” Blackshire said. “My classroom is my happy place. I can never explain the joy I have when I see how children grasp a new skill, make a new friend, complete a new task, or just try something new no matter the obstacles they may face.”
Blackshire has taught at Leon and Ashton Elementary schools prior to New Haven. The first in her family to graduate college, she said her students helped pull her through a dark time in her life.
“The year I was to graduate (college), my husband was killed in a car wreck,” she said. “I immediately grabbed the strength of my family, friends, and professors to help me get through. Looking back now, I see how my students also pulled me through this dark time in my life. I never gave up my faith in my Lord and Savior for letting me walk alone. I just didn’t see how He was using my students to help me.”
Blackshire later remarried and is the mother of two sons. She also cites her fellow teachers as giving her inspiration.
“I could not be the educator I am today if it were not for my co-workers,” she stated. “I truly believe in my co-workers and the team they have allowed me to become a part of here at New Haven Elementary School.”
Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Vally Publishing, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.