Biscayne Elementary Leadership Academy fourth-grade teacher Mikayla Shuford is focused on reaching the whole child and creating a trauma-informed classroom. As a Teacher Leader, she's taking the skills and information she's gained from JPEF's Teacher Leadership Initiative to share with her fellow teachers. JPEF asked Ms. Shuford how the experience has impacted her, the students and her school.
Tell us a little bit about your school, Biscayne Elementary Leadership Academy:
Biscayne Elementary Leadership Academy is a PK-5 grade school. We call our school the Stellar Choice, because everything we do is STELLAR! It’s important for teachers to create learning experiences for students, not just teach the curriculum, this is how we get true engagement and participation from our students. Learning can be and should be fun, centered around students and their interests. Biscayne prides itself in a culture of excellence and building leaders of tomorrow.
Tell us a little bit about you as a leader – what do you prioritize in schools you serve?
I never thought to label myself as a leader, I just always felt I took initiative to do what was right for students. But as a teacher who is viewed as a teacher leader, I always see the needs of students, and determine ways to meet their needs. I truly believe that all children are deserving of a rich and meaningful education. A priority for me as leader is to help bridge the opportunity gap in underrepresented neighborhoods. I want to create experiences for children that will stay with them for a lifetime, establish good habits that will be their foundational values in the years to come.
What are your big goals for your school this year?
My biggest goals for this year is to establish a class culture of leaders that inspire others, help students live happy and healthier lives, and help teachers reach the whole child. A school goal is to help students realize they are all leaders; it is my goal to translate that in classrooms. Helping teachers learn about their students through modeling morning meetings and restorative circles. Another goal this school year is to teach the whole child, focus on the needs of students socially and emotionally.What are you working really hard to move forward?
I really want to help establish a culture of teachers who focus on reaching students, not just academically, but emotionally and socially as well. I want teachers to know that it is important that we reach those needs of our learners just as much, if not more than their academic needs as well.
How is the Teacher Leader Initiative helping you with your goals?
The Teacher Leader Initiative has helped me tremendously. Through the learning through inquiry project, I have been able to take a topic that interests me, hone in on the process, and study the results. Without going through this whole process, I wouldn’t have been able to be exposed to the needs of students and the resources to meet their needs.
What are some of the top things you took away from the learning?
There are so many things I’ve taken away from the learning. I have learned that our students have trauma and emotional needs that aren’t being addressed in schools. Students aren’t able to process or focus on the academics, because they are not able to. As educators we know that we are able to teach children math, science, and reading, but we forget that we must also teach them how to handle emotions, loss, and celebrate success. This is the top thing that I’ve learned, that as a leader, I must help others see how important it is to educate and reach the whole child.