Tag Archives: Shanna Peeples

Educator has it right: Come visit us, Mme. Education Secretary

I want to give a full-throated cheer to a former colleague of mine who has gone on to do some great work in public education classrooms.

Shanna Peeples, who was named 2015 National Teacher of the Year, these days works in the administration of the Amarillo Independent School District. Until this school year, she taught English at Palo Duro High School. She was named National Teacher of the Year and was feted in a White House ceremony hosted by President Barack Obama. We worked for a time together many years ago for the same newspaper, the Amarillo Globe-News.

What has Peeples done to earn praise from yours truly? She has invited the current education secretary, Betsy DeVos, to visit Amarillo. Come see what’s going on here, Shanna has told DeVos.

Lord knows the education secretary could use some on-site experience visiting public schools, talking to educators who work for public school districts and to public school students.

Peeples made her invitation known on social media. She has said she’ll bring the “coffee and donuts” to a meeting with Secretary DeVos.

I want to join the one-time National Teacher of the Year in inviting DeVos to Amarillo.

Look at it this way, Mme. Secretary: Amarillo sits in the middle of the Texas Panhandle, which voted overwhelmingly for the guy who nominated you, Donald J. Trump. This is ostensibly friendly territory. Amarillo ain’t Berkeley, if you get my drift.

DeVos, though, has zero experience with public education. Not as a student, or the mother of students. She ought to come here and take a look at the work being done by those who work for the very public to which the secretary also answers.

Nice going, Shanna. I hope the secretary accepts your invitation.

Teacher of the year now going to teach more teachers


I have this friend — with whom I used to work in a previous life — who this past year received the highest honor someone in her profession can get.

She was named National Teacher of the Year. Shanna Peeples went to the White House, where she was honored by President Barack Obama, who said many wonderful things about her and the dedication she has demonstrated in educating young people.

Peeples, quite naturally, turned the emphasis on her colleagues who also were gathered on the White House lawn. Shanna accepted the teacher of the year award in their honor, she said.

What makes her such a stellar teacher? Her undying love of the children who learn from her. She teaches English … and until just recently she was teaching students at Palo Duro High School in Amarillo.

Now, though, she’s being promoted.

The Amarillo Independent School District has decided to put her teaching skills to work at a higher level. As Peeples writes about her new assignment: ” … I’ve been trusted with the task that my friend, Jennifer Wilkerson has done so well for our district: Core Curriculum Specialist, ELAR 6-12. For my non-Ed-jargon friends: that’s the responsibility for growing teachers and shaping literacy learning in middle and high school.”

Are we clear? She’s going to teach the teachers how to do their jobs better. At least that’s what I read in what she wrote.


The next thing I want to say might be taken the wrong way. I do not intend at all to sound like a Negative Norm. There’s a certain irony, it seems to me, in taking a teacher who’s just been told she’s the best in the nation at what she does and then assigning her to do something different.

Shanna Peeples certainly doesn’t dismiss the new task she’s been given at Amarillo ISD. Nor do I. Her many friends throughout the Texas Panhandle are proud of her and proud of what she has accomplished in the classroom.

Her emphasis now will be on helping other classroom teachers become the best they can be, which then will enable them to pass on the joy of learning to the young people assembled before them.

As Shanna writes: “God help me, I’m a teacher. As I told a radio interviewer: ‘It’s like Peter Parker being bitten by the radioactive spider. You can’t just quit being a teacher like I say, quit being a deejay or a short order cook at the bowling alley. You’re a teacher for life.’

“Trust me, I’ll have plenty of assignments for other people. This work is big, important work. And it won’t ever be even partway done before I die. But that’s what makes it worth giving my heart to. And my heart is with teachers as much as it is with students. Always and always and always.”
Well said. As always.

Interview gives insight into a great teacher

The Texas Tribune says it’s all right to republish articles it produces, as long as you say it’s from the Texas Tribune and that you’re republishing it.

So there. I’ve just declared both things.

The link attached to this very brief post is of an interview the Tribune did with the National Teacher of the Year, Amarillo’s Shanna Peeples.

It gives you some tremendous insight into just why this individual was chosen among more than 300,000 Texas educators and 3 million educators nationally as being teacher of the year for 2015.

Take a few minutes to read the interview. It’s worth your time.



Texan of the Year? From Amarillo? Why not, indeed?

The Dallas Morning News makes a huge deal every year about selecting its Texan of the Year.

One of the paper’s editorial writers/bloggers, Rodger Jones, has pitched the idea that Shanna Peeples, the National Teacher of the Year, should be nominated for the paper’s acclaimed award.


I concur with what Jones is suggesting.

But I’m biased. Like a lot of folks in these parts, my path crossed Shanna’s years ago when we worked for the same newspaper here in Amarillo. She went on to pursue her calling as a teacher and, well, she’s succeeded beautifully.

As Jones writes in his blog: “Shanna can tailor instruction to the needs of her students, whether she is working with refugees who have suffered traumatic events in their lives, or AP students who crave challenging curriculum or at-risk students who are attending school in the evenings to recover lost credits,” Palo Duro Principal Sandy Whitlow said. “The bottom line is that her students know she truly cares about them, and she will invest every ounce of energy in helping them attain their goals.”

How can you not consider this dedicated and talented public school teacher to be Texan of the Year?

A word or two about a favorite teacher

There’s been a lot of talk lately about teachers.

Amarillo is home to the National Teacher of the Year, Shanna Peeples, who teaches English at Palo Duro High School. She makes her community proud. Indeed, her life likely has changed forever … and for the better.

Others have posted messages on social media about their favorite teacher.

I didn’t particularly enjoy school as a kid. I wasn’t a very good student. It’s hard now, so many decades later, to remember precisely why I struggled so much.

I won’t lay any blame on the teachers from whom I learned about readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmatic.

However, one teacher does stand out in my early years. He was my first male teacher at Harvey W. Scott Elementary School in Portland, Ore. Carl Hendrickson taught sixth-graders.

What do I remember about him? The first memory is that he was damn funny. He made sitting in a classroom enjoyable. He joked with the students, which I don’t recall any of my previous teachers at Harvey Scott school doing.

He had nicknames for his students. What did he call me? Well, he had a variation of my last name that he hung on me. He called me “Ka-knuckles.” He used the name when he called on me to speak to the class; he said it to me privately as he counseled me on my school work.

I took no offense to the name. I kind of considered it a badge of honor to have a goofy name attached to me by a teacher who, if memory serves, was quite popular with all the students who learned from him.

I left Harvey W. Scott school in the spring of 1962 when my parents moved us to a new school district in the suburbs. I was in the seventh grade and I made new friends and got accustomed to a new school system. The Parkrose School District had a junior high school system for seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders and we got to move from class to class, just like the big kids do in high school.

In 1983, after I had started my journalism career, I got a phone call from my fifth-grade shop teacher, John Eide, who wanted me to speak to students at a career day at Harvey W. School Elementary School. I accepted the invitation, got reacquainted with Mr. Eide. We had lunch in the school cafeteria and I discovered that the lunch room smelled exactly the way I remembered it as a boy. I asked Mr. Eide if aany of the teachers who taught me back in the old days were still around.

Why yes, he said. He mentioned Mr. Hendrickson. I went to his classroom and by golly, there he was. His hair had turned snow white. He was near retirement, as I recall. We caught up on where our lives had taken us the past two decades.

And he called me Ka-knuckles.

Politicians cut money for schools, then knock them

Those of us who know Shanna Peeples are still a bit awestruck by the recognition that has come her way.

She teaches English at Palo Duro High School in Amarillo and has been honored as the National Teacher of the Year for 2015. A new adventure awaits her as she prepares to carry the torch for public educators across the nation.

A comment came the other day from Jon Mark Beilue, a columnist at the Amarillo Globe-News — where Peeples worked before answering her calling as a teacher — that rings so very true.

Beilue noted, while praising the work of good and great teacher everywhere, how some of the sharpest criticism of public education comes from politicians who have voted to cut money from public school systems.

Peeples, in accepting her crystal apple from the president at the White House this week, thanked him for his unwavering support of public education.


But every so often, we hear politician here at home decry public education, saying things about the quality of education our students are getting even a they cast vote to slash money aimed at improving schools.

How can they say these things with a straight face?

Oh, I almost forgot: Politicians say a lot of things without understanding or comprehending the irony of their statements and actions.

It’s good to remember what a politician — a state legislator, for example — does for the record while railing about the shortcomings of a valuable beneficiary of state government.

While we’re at it, we ought to hold those politician to account for their actions.


All good teachers deserve our praise, honor


I’m not going to spend a lot of time and cyberspace elaborating on my pal Jon Mark Beilue’s excellent commentary here.

Take a look at the link and have a listen to Jon Mark’s tribute to a fabulous public educator, Shanna Peeples, who was honored today in a White House ceremony by President Obama, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and more than 50 of her colleagues who competed for the high honor of being named National Teacher of the Year.

Shanna honors her profession, her community and her state with this high honor. And as she said today, she represents all the hardworking educators who make a difference in the lives of the students they teach.


Teachers: an underappreciated profession

Public school teachers — especially the good ones — need our appreciation and an expression of thanks for all they do to help our children find their way into the world.

One of them today received a high honor, indeed, from her peers. She happens to teach English right here in Amarillo. Many of her students are refugees, whose families have fled repression and deprivation.

Take a bow, Shanna Peeples.


The Council of Chief State School Officers today named Peeples — who teaches at Palo Duro High School — its National Teacher of the Year. She was one of four finalists competing for the job. She’s the first Texan so honored since the late 1950s.

Shanna is a former colleague of mine who’s gone on to enrich many lives along the way. It’s an amazing story, when you consider that becoming an educator was not her first choice of professions. She’s done a lot of things in her life — and working as a journalist was one of them.

She gave up that career several years ago to pursue her real calling, which is to make a serious difference in young people’s lives.

Shanna was asked this morning why she loves teaching and she replied because teaching gives her the chance to “write the last chapter” in young people’s stories.

Public school teachers receive criticism all the time. Too little effort is made to offer high praise to the great work that many teachers do in our communities.

One of them stands as a symbol of educational excellence. She has brought great honor to her state and to her profession.

We’re all proud of Shanna Peeples.

Great public school teachers: priceless

Shanna Peeples is a former colleague of mine. She used to bleed printer’s ink, writing — quite well, I should add — for the Amarillo Globe-News.

Shanna gave that career up some years ago to enter another calling, as a public school teacher.

She teaches English these days at Palo Duro High School in Amarillo and this week received the highest honor a secondary teacher can earn: Secondary Teacher of the Year from the Texas Education Agency.

Think about this for a moment.

Texas comprises more than 1,200 independent school districts, and more than 2,000 secondary schools. All told the state employs more than 300,000 teachers in primary and secondary education. They educate 5 million or so children at all levels.

So, the honor that Shanna earned represents something quite special.

First, it honors the great work she does for Palo Duro High students. She is dedicated to their well-being and they are devoted to her, most of whom seek to do their very best to make Ms. Peeples proud of them.

I haven’t had the honor of watching Shanna teach her students. I’ll just accept with gladness and pride in my former colleague that the TEA has honored a great teacher for doing great work in a great school district.

Indeed, honors such as these should be valued by everyone who cherishes public education. Shanna’s work symbolizes the dedication that great teacher devote to their calling every single day.

How do you put a value on that dedication? Precisely how do you measure the good that these teachers bring to the students in their care during the school day?

Good teachers can become role models for the students in their care. Great teachers become embedded in students’ memories forever. We all remember the great teachers we’ve had along the way and whatever positive outcomes develop in our lives, it’s a very good bet indeed that some of the credit belongs to a teacher who steered us in the right direction when we needed a mid-course correction.

You cannot put a price on the value that good educators bring to those who are coming along. Shanna Peeples represents the greatness that exists in our public education system.

From where I stand, the TEA has chosen well and our future is in good hands as long as we keep producing high-quality educators.