Master Teacher Monday is a series highlighting educators who have earned the designation of ‘master teacher’ through Texas’ Teacher Incentive Allotment (TIA). TIA encourages school districts to locally develop multi-measure evaluation systems to reward and retain their most effective teachers. Those earning the ‘master teacher’ designation rank in the top 5% of educators in the entire state!
As a child, Shakaya Hendricks would play school every summer, always drawn to the role of teacher. Destined for the classroom, she began as a cafeteria worker and, today has a career in education and earned TEA’s master teacher designation. Now she is staying “true to her craft” as a 3rd grade teacher while earning nearly six figures.
Read Ms. Hendrick’s Q&A below.
Tell us a little about your life and career journey.
My journey into education was very much unexpected. After graduating high school, I attended college, but I did not know how college worked. I say this because my parents were not college graduates at the time. So when I first attended college, I chose a major that was not for me, and instead of simply changing majors, which I did not know I could do, I quit.
I believe teaching was always for me, because every summer I played school and, of course, I was the teacher. At the end of the school year, when teachers were cleaning out their classrooms, I would come home with a backpack full of worksheets ready to get my “summer job” started.
Why did you get into education?
I have two daughters now, but at the time I only had my oldest daughter, and because of her I needed a job where I could only work school hours. I took a job with a temporary agency that was for the school cafeteria, and I loved it! Just being around all the kids and speaking and smiling with them was great! From there, I was asked to do tutorials, and not too long afterward, I was offered a paraprofessional position. I then decided to go back to school to become a teacher.
How has being recognized and rewarded as a master teacher impacted your life?
To be recognized as a master teacher is amazing. I never thought of being recognized for doing my job. It is always amazing when something is seen in you that you don’t see in yourself. The old saying still goes, teachers are not in it for the money and that is still my sentiment. I am still going to go in every day doing what I love and giving it my all. I will say that this gives me reassurance that I am growing as a teacher and making a difference in my student’s education and lives. This also solidifies the effort I put in and that my students are retaining the information being taught. This for me is the reward. I would not be considered a master teacher without my students' hard work as well.
What is a classroom experience or specific student that has stuck with you?
I know this may sound cliche, but I have to say I have had a great bunch of kids since my very first year. There is truly something special to love about each and every one of them. Some of them were super sweet, super smart, super caring, super artistic, super talkative, natural leaders, or we ended up having that unspoken bond that we both needed.
A funny thing happened just this week. I have a little girl that sits fairly close to me, and as I am standing at my podium getting ready to start my lesson, mumbling to myself, “where’s that paper?”, she picked it up and passed it right to me. She did not say, “Is this it?”, she just knew. I couldn't do anything but hug her; she has definitely been my sidekick this year.
What is your advice to someone interested in becoming a high-performing educator?
My advice to anyone interested in becoming a high-performing educator would be to remain true to your craft. You have to be dedicated and adaptable and give 110% daily. You are definitely going to have to work harder than your students. When teaching them, talk to them in the language they can understand and then bring it back to the academic vocabulary. It’s not about how much you know; it's about how much you can get them to understand. Show them love and encouragement, and make all the lessons the most exciting thing you have ever taught!
When you enter that building, your focus has to be on them. Be personal with them, love them, and make your room a comfortable learning environment. Make sure you are emphasizing growth from any learning mistakes. Remember you are building relationships, as well as treating them as family. Your room is like a home where there is love and honesty, and every day is a new day. Celebrate the small steps as well as the big ones. Always be a listening ear for all matters and be open-minded. All kids are different, cater to their individual needs, and find “that” something that makes them unique.