Shelly Parks realized early in her teaching career that the lessons students will remember from her classroom likely would have little to do with grammar, vocabulary or literature. So what does an English teacher do? Connect the classroom to the real world.
In 16 years at Francis Howell North High School, Parks has transformed the learning experiences for thousands of students, and on Tuesday morning, she was announced as the 2019 Missouri Teacher of the Year. Parks becomes the 50th Missouri Teacher of the Year since the program began in 1957 and joins 2006 winner Girard “Jerry” Thornton Jr. as the second recipient to come from the Francis Howell School District.
“When you step into Mrs. Parks’ classroom, you know immediately that the culture and climate is one of high expectations and collaboration,” said Francis Howell North Associate Principal Dr. Kathryn Greer. “Mrs. Parks understands that relationships with her students are the key.”
Parks has worked as an English language arts teacher at Francis Howell North since 2002, where she has taught English II, English III, honors American literature, creative writing, novel, advanced placement language and composition, and advanced placement literature and composition at different points throughout her tenure. She has served as the English language arts department chair since 2009 and has sponsored student council since 2003.
“Because of her passion for education and her dedication to personal growth, [Mrs. Parks] continues to be the most impactful teacher she can be,” said Emily Pagano, a former student of Parks and now current English language arts teacher at Fort Zumwalt East High School. “She leads by example, encouraging her colleagues to be the best teachers for their students as well. Her passion for teaching is contagious, and her positive impact is widespread.”
Parks started her career at Elsberry (Mo.) High School (Elsberry R-II) in January 2002 after obtaining her bachelor’s degree in English from Harding (Ark.) University in 2001. After transitioning to Francis Howell North in August 2002, she eventually earned a master’s degree in secondary education/English from the University of Missouri-St. Louis in 2007.
But for Parks, every lesson plan has been centered around one thing: student engagement.
“I believe every student has a voice and deserves the chance to be able to use it with an authentic audience,” Parks said. “I believe when students are given choice, engagement is a given. When all sides of an argument are presented, we show respect and give dignity to differing opinions from our own. Words and voices can initiate change.”
Parks will serve as Missouri’s representative for the National Teacher of the Year competition. She will be honored at a banquet in Jefferson City on Oct. 22 along with the other six finalists and regional teachers of the year.
The Missouri Teacher of the Year program recognizes the efforts of effective teachers in providing a quality education to their students. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education conducts the program with financial support provided by the Boeing Company and the Monsanto Fund.