Shaneequa Castle teaches 10th grade English at Potomac High School in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Shaneequa values learning constantly about her students and how she can better serve them.
May 31, 2018
What were you doing before the corps?
I had just finished earning my Master of Arts degree in African and African Diaspora Studies from Florida International University. I skipped my graduation ceremony to help launch One Heart Source's education program in Jamaica. After the program, I moved to Brooklyn, NY to teach at an elementary school. While working at the school, I applied to Teach For America to fully pursue a career in education.
How has your opinion of education and educators evolved since you’ve been in the classroom?
My appreciation of dedicated educators has significantly increased. It takes so much to be an educator, and it is not until a person makes the choice to teach that he or she can truly understand. Performing multiple jobs for endless hours with little compensation is beyond difficult. Yet, millions of people make the decision daily to not only teach but to do so intentionally with relentless passion. It's a humbling thought for me.
By the last day of school, how do you want your students to have changed or grown?
Last year, I chose to call my students change agents because I wanted them to constantly associate themselves with power and influence. As I affirmed their power and influence, my own abilities were affirmed. This year, I owe it to myself, my students and my community to live up to my adopted name, change agent, by inspiring holistic change in my students. More specifically, I expect my students to grow academically and socially. I anticipate that their mindsets will have shifted, even if just slightly, [to] a mindset that is more positive, ambitious and intentional. Ultimately, I want my students to leave my classroom better than when they entered.
Was there a special teacher or experience in your life that made you interested in education?
My brief peeks into the education system in Jamaica, New York, Florida, Trinidad, South Africa and Maryland sparked my interest in education. The pain and frustration that I felt when I was exposed to the injustice that students of color face in those different classrooms across the globe compelled me to take the courageous steps towards a career in education. As I began the initial stages to become a teacher, I immediately thought of my high school English teacher Mrs. Cindy Martin who suggested in my senior year that I major in English. Mrs. Martin's patience, empathy, confidence and hard work inspire me to this day.
What stories or memories from teaching in the classroom make you smile?
The most recent moment in the classroom that made me smile happened today. As I reviewed key terms, concepts and PARCC practice questions I was so proud because they were getting the answers correct, engaging in the lesson, asking for more questions and challenging opposing teammates as well as encouraging their peers. Somedays I experience the complete opposite and those days leave me feeling defeated. Days like today push me to continue working hard and remain patient. My students’ progress is what keeps me going.
What makes you a great teacher?
My commitment to being a student makes me a great teacher. Sometimes my paradoxical desires to learn and know everything can be frustrating at times. Nonetheless, I am on a constant journey to grow holistically so that I can assist my students in doing the same for themselves. It is a humbling and important decision to accept that better exists. It is healthy and also important to accept that better exists within.
When teaching feels tough, what keeps you going?
My faith in God, passion for progress, knowledge of self and my amazing support system keep me going.
When you get to relax, what do you like to do?
I enjoy spending time with family, reading, dancing, listening to music and indulging in the simple pleasures such as cooking, taking a nap and doing absolutely nothing!