Shanna Daniel has been named the teacher of the year at New Albany Elementary School.
Daniel, who teaches fourth grade language arts, has been teaching for a total of 14 years, and this is her second year at New Albany Elementary.
Prior to teaching at New Albany, she taught at Pontotoc Middle School for five years and Galena Elementary in Marshall County for seven years.
She earned her master’s degree in elementary education from Blue Mountain College and a specialist degree in educational leadership at Arkansas State.
Daniel said she did not have any bad educational experiences when she was growing up. But she also did not have any meaningful relationships with teachers when she was a child.
She explained that she moved a lot during childhood because her dad was a pastor who worked at several different churches around the state. Moving so much made it difficult to form connections with teachers. She wanted to become a teacher so she could make a difference and connect with students.
“I feel like learning is an amazing opportunity to connect with anybody because everyone can learn,” Daniel said.
Learning happens when teachers and students connect relationally, she added.
“I just think it’s a great opportunity to make a meaningful impact,” Daniel said. “That is really what drove me to become a teacher.”
In addition to teaching the students the curriculum, Daniel also wants to make a positive impact on them personally. She wants to show them the difference between right and wrong and model integrity for them. Teachers need to educate the “whole child” by helping mold who they are as people, she said.
Teaching the students how to become better people is another one of her goals. She wants them to know how to treat other people, noting that teachers have the opportunity to shape the upcoming generation.
Maintaining stamina is one of the more difficult parts about being a teacher, she said. Teachers must continue to be inventive and look for opportunities to meet the needs of children. In some cases, a teacher may try to meet a child’s needs, but it is not working.
It could be that the child is not gaining ground as he should or the teacher is not connecting with the student on a personal level. Teachers must be continue to try new methods to reach the student, she said. That can be very difficult because every child has different needs, which is why it is important for teachers to know students on a personal level, she added.
Daniel did not know she wanted to be a teacher until she went to college. She took an assessment to determine her strengths, and the results showed she should be teacher or a social worker. She felt that the Lord had a plan for her.
She feels as though God has blessed her tremendously in her experience as a teacher. She prays that God will make her effective as a teacher and said the Lord is definitely the reason she is where she is today. Without the Lord working through her, the massive job would be unattainable, she said.
Several qualities make a good teacher, including flexibility, compassion for students and passion for what you’re teaching, Daniel said. There must also be a desire to connect with students relationally, she added. Students cannot learn if they don’t feel like the teacher loves and cares about them, she said.
Daniel tries to make learning fun for the students and be inventive with her teaching methods. She uses technology a tremendous amount to engage the students. Movements and chants are also used in her classroom to help the students learn. The students even cheer when they do something well.
She also uses a lot of small group opportunities, which allow the students to connect with others. She thinks her teaching methods make the students want to be in the classroom since it is not direct instruction all the time.
New Albany Elementary School is a great community of people who care about her professionally and personally, Daniel said. Her son also goes to school there.
Daniel said she feels very humbled and honored about being named teacher of the year at New Albany Elementary School. Being a teacher is huge responsibility because it involves changing the trajectory of somebody’s life, she said.
Daniel is married to Ben, and they have a son, Ayden, and daughter, Blakely Ruth.