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Notebook and Pen

My Story

Elementary School 

As a little girl growing up in Southern California, I always wanted to be a teacher. I remember playing school with neighbors and my nieces and nephews who were close to me in age. I remember trying to grow my library with Scholastic Book Club orders, writing stories and doodling in my journals, solving math problems for fun, and looking at my second grade teacher thinking, "How will I ever be able to mange all of the kids and all of the papers as gracefully as she does!" I probably didn't use the word "gracefully," but that's exactly how I felt about the way she seemed to so effortlessly do all the things I thought a teacher needed to do. I loved ALL THINGS SCHOOL! However, I also had some unpleasant... or maybe confusing is the word... experiences in school as well. 

I remember being frustrated in fifth grade when I had found the correct solution for each multiplication problem on

a worksheet, but was docked points because I didn't "cross out and carry the one" each time the teacher expected me to. I said "there was already a one there, so I just used it again instead of crossing it out and writing a new one." My teacher wasn't happy with that and wanted me to follow "the proper procedure." Because I cared about my points and good grades, I reluctantly recorded the procedures the way the teacher asked me to for the rest of the year. I also remember thinking I hoped I would listen to my students' thinking when I became a teacher.    

Middle and High School 

I remember liking math in middle school and feeling "good at it" because I was in an advanced pathway. I spent my freshman year bored out of my mind because although I had taken and passed Algebra in eighth grade, the school counselor enrolling me in high school said I would need to take it again. When she didn't listen to me or my mother, I repeated a course I didn't need to repeat. Looking back, I think I was meant to have that experience for two reasons:

1) I was meant to learn how to advocate for myself and future students, and 2) I was meant to see math taught "in a different way." My freshman year Algebra teacher didn't give pages and pages of homework and rather than focusing on the number of problems we solved in class, he focused on making sure we understood each problem deeply. At the end of the year he said, "I didn't teach you anything, did I?" My reply was, "I knew most of the math, but you taught me to look at things in a different way and that teachers could be excited about teaching math."

I eventually took Algebra II in summer school and was able to take Calculus my senior year. I remember doing my Calculus homework on Friday afternoons between school getting out and evening football games because I thought it was fun and didn't want to worry about it over the weekend. As decisions for college and choosing a major came up, I recall debating between wanting to teach elementary school or high school math. Of course my high school teachers helped persuade me into choosing high school over elementary school. 



I started college at California State University Bakersfield as a mathematics education major. Similar to my transition from middle school to high school, I found myself enrolled in Calculus again. The instructor didn't grade homework and the entire grade for the course was only based on tests. I attended class, did no homework, and easily earned

an "A" that semester by taking tests on things I had learned the year before. The next semester I enrolled in Calculus II with the same teacher in the same lecture hall. I treated the coursework the same as the previous semester's course.  Showing up to class and not doing homework didn't work so well with new content. I think I passed with a C+, but I know I failed the computer elective that was intended to compliment the math course. At that time I was in the process of transferring to Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah and remembered my debate between wanting to teach high school math or elementary school. I decided I wanted to teach all subjects and little kids and that I didn't want to sit through anymore math lectures like those I had experienced my freshman year of college.

As I transferred universities my sophomore year, I also changed majors. Elementary Education would win after all.

I was so intrigued with the first math content course I took as part of the elementary education program. I learned why things worked and had to prove why they worked for myself. I remember writing a paper about place value understanding and creating images of base-ten blocks and Cuisenaire rods to describe mathematical thinking.

My eyes had been opened to a completely new way of thinking and I was so excited to soon be teaching students the things I was learning.  

Becoming a Teacher

Upon graduation I had my heart set on becoming a third grade teacher, but ended up getting my first job as a sixth grade teacher in Nebo School District. At 21 years old I was terrified of teaching sixth grade. I had been a sixth grader myself only ten years prior and I was worried about how tall they would be, the disruptive behavior they might have, and a million other things. Almost everything I was afraid of happened during my first year of teaching, and it was OK! I learned to love teaching sixth grade. I loved the more complex math concepts I got to teach, but mostly I loved the professional learning I was blessed to engage in. 

When I was hired for my first teaching job I had no idea that my school was participating in a two-year long professional learning experience with the BYU-Public School Partnership. I thought, "Wow, I'm getting the best of both worlds. I had no idea I could specialize in or go deep with math as an elementary teacher. I thought my options were elementary OR math." The Comprehensive Mathematics Instruction (CMI) professional learning experience (along with the Elementary Mathematics Endorsement I earned as part of my first master's degree during those two years) changed my life and set me on a trajectory to be the professional I am today. I learned how students develop mathematical ideas and how teachers can guide students to deep understanding through providing open tasks and facilitating discourse. I learned about the progression of lessons and tasks over time and the importance of balancing conceptual and procedural understanding. 

Becoming a Teacher Leader

As I was about to complete my master's degree I got a bug to try out the east coast. I researched school districts in several cities and even spent my spring break that year staying with a college friend's family so I could interview at a few schools. I ended up being hired to teach for Fairfax County Public Schools and had the amazing opportunity to be part of opening a brand new school. I loved my time exploring the Washington, DC area and teaching a class with students who spoke up to fourteen different languages. 

My second year there I began to participate in district-level opportunities to write assessment items and curricular tasks. My principal asked me to be the math lead for the school. That experience afforded me the opportunity to serve as a liaison between the district and the school, to network and collaborate with math leads from other schools, to serve on my school's leadership team, to lead my school's math team, to organize family math nights, present at faculty meetings, and so much more. I developed a passion to not just help my students thrive in math, but to collaborate with and support other teachers in doing the same for their students. 

Becoming an Instructional Coach

After a few years in Northern Virginia, I felt a nudge to move back to Utah and specifically to the Salt Lake area. I started looking up positions in the Salt Lake City School District and found out they had mathematics coaches. I thought that would be my dream job! And, it was. I loved serving as a math coach. I loved working with a team that did math and planned for math together. I loved developing resources to support teachers across the district, sharpening my facilitation skills for adult learning, and being able to instruct mathematics endorsement courses. I mostly loved planning units and lessons with teams of teachers and coteaching with teachers as they realized they could get students to discover and think deeply about mathematics concepts. 

For one year within my years as a coach, I was a full-time doctoral student at Brigham Young University. I loved teaching the university's elementary mathematics methods and endorsement courses. Teaching both types of courses at the same time taught me a lot about the differences in learning needs for preservice, novice, and seasoned teachers. That year I was able to study the role of Elementary Mathematics Specialists by both examining and synthesizing existing research as well as by conducting research by interviewing educators about their perception of the role of their specialist. I was fortunate to attend national conferences specifically about research on Elementary Mathematics Specialists. Those experiences pivoted my career to specialize in the development of Elementary Mathematics Specialists

Becoming the State's Elementary Mathematics Specialist

While serving as a math coach, my colleagues and mentors helped me become part of the statewide mathematics community. I began to present at the Utah Council of Teachers of Mathematics conferences and even served on their board. I became well acquainted with initiatives at the state's education agency. I designed and facilitated statewide professional learning (some of my favorite memories are facilitating in and exploring Moab - fractions by day and Arches National Park by evening). I served on a standards steering committee, participated in every type of assessment workshop, and presented my first webinar ever (who knew a half a decade later that would be the only way to present!). I began to dream about one day being the Elementary Mathematics Specialist for the Utah State Board of Education. I thought that would be my dream job! And, it was.

I loved serving as the state-level math specialist. I loved working with a team that planned for statewide meetings together. I loved developing resources to support teachers across all the districts and charters in the state, sharpening my facilitation skills for supporting hired designers and facilitators with adult learning, and being able to lead the committee that revised the frameworks for the mathematics endorsement courses. I mostly loved leading the committees that developed the core guides, creating the Elementary Mathematics Specialist Endorsement for the state of Utah, and laying the groundwork for early learning initiatives that will impact teachers and students for years to come. I loved fostering lifelong friendships with district-level mathematics and gifted education specialists and directors across the state. I loved becoming part of national education communities by collaborating with other state-level specialists, attending incredible conferences, being invited to write position papers, and being involved with national professional organizations in a number of ways. I loved hoping that the high-level work would trickle down into classrooms and make school better for kids. 

A Time of Transition

2020 was a time of transition and reflection for a lot of people. For me, it was my first year in my new (new to me, but quite old) home as a newlywed. It was the year I worked from home. The year Utah began to have major legislative initiatives in early math. The year I developed an elementary math methods program for the community college. The year I was a curriculum writer. The year I started earning a second master's degree. It was the year I found my yard and garden to be a sanctuary in a world that seemed to be spinning so fast, yet entirely stopped all at the same time. 


As 2021 approached I decided that although I absolutely loved my work at the state, I wanted a change. I wanted something that seemed more local. I wanted to be closer to home and closer to students. That summer I accepted a position as a district-level mathematics specialist in Alpine School District. I have loved being able to take knowledge from my experiences serving at the state, for universities, and writing curriculum to apply it to serving in a district. I have been able to reflect a lot about working with systems and working with individuals. I have been able to reflect a lot about what matters most.   

Becoming an Educational Consultant & Professional Learning Provider

While working at the district level, I have been able to maintain relationships with the state and national communities in which I have become a part of. As I have conversations with colleagues, I am often asked if I consult or if I offer professional learning on my own. I began to dream about one day being an Educational Consultant and Professional Learning Provider for myself so that I might be able to serve anyone who could benefit from my experience. I thought that would be my dream job! And, it is.

I love serving as an Educational Consultant and Professional Learning Provider. I love working with a variety of teams that plan for meaningful initiatives together. I love developing resources to support teachers in many districts and charters across various states, sharpening my facilitation skills for supporting adult learning in new ways, and being able to thrive in the development of my very own mathematics courses. I mostly love fostering new relationships with system-level leaders and classroom teachers across the country. I love being part of local and national education communities by collaborating with professional educators and other consultants, attending incredible conferences, and being involved with national professional organizations in a number of ways. I love knowing that this important work will trickle down into classrooms and make school better for kids. 

About me Personally

I live in Lehi, Utah with my husband Adam. We enjoy gardening and preserving fruits and vegetables from our garden and trees. We love being outside and appreciate road trips, hikes, swimming, and bike rides. I support Adam in his automotive repair and handyman business as he supports me in all things education. I also love cooking and doing and teaching yoga. 

Image of Shannon graduating college
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