Todd fourth grader teacher Shelly Graham is retiring this year so we caught up with her to find out about her most memorable moments and how she plans to stay (very) busy during retirement. Here is Ms. Graham’s Q&A:
Q: How long have you been a teacher at the school, what grade/subject and where did you teach before?
A: I had worked in publishing so teaching was a career change for me which began after I took time off to raise three children. I started at a Briarcliff nursery school where I was fortunate to get to know many of my future families at Todd. After earning master’s degrees in general and special education, I was hired as a kindergarten leave replacement. The following year I was reassigned to fourth grade, for a total of 15 years. At first I thought I would miss being with the younger students, but I knew immediately that fourth Grade at Todd School was where I was meant to be!
Q: What are some memorable moments from your career at the school?
A: Memorable moments for me are 14 years of class trips to Nature’s Classroom, which is a three-day/two-night team-building nature experience. Another memorable moment was that my ICT co-teacher (Stephanie Grace) and I were chosen as Briarcliff Manor teacher(s) of the year for 2018-2019. I was truly honored.
Q: How has teaching changed since you became a teacher?
A: Teaching has changed greatly over the course of my tenure. The biggest factor is the advancement in technology. As we adjust to our newest mode of delivering lessons virtually, I am grateful that our students are able to “see” us each morning on our class Teams site. Other changes in curriculum have been the adoption of Singapore Math, and most recently the Teacher’s College Writing Curriculum. Last year we became the LATI (Learner Active Technology Infused) classroom at Todd, and opened our doors for fellow teachers to visit and observe the students engaged in “authentic learning units”, a student-driven experience.
Q: Can you share a funny incident that happened while teaching?
A: We love to add humor to our day. It’s a silly story, but it’s the first thing that came to my mind: We had received the class pictures and were distributing them. I opened my individual picture and it was such a closeup that it took me by surprise and I jumped back. At my reaction, the group of students around me starting laughing until we had all joined in and couldn’t stop. A small moment, but one I will remember.
Q: Do you have any advice to offer to a teacher starting out?
A: My advice to a new teacher is to enjoy every day with your students and to feel fortunate that you have found a career that you love that will keep you engaged and continuously learning. Each day is an opportunity to start again and make it better, and every year is a gift to have new faces before you who are ready to learn.
Q: What are your plans for retirement?
A: I plan to stay very busy in my retirement years, as anyone who knows me well will understand. My husband and I will be moving permanently to our second home in Cooperstown, NY, where I have enjoyed spending summers and holidays for many years. In addition to many friends and family here, you will find me on either the golf course, the tennis court or taking a hike. Besides spending time outdoors, I am involved in a local museum (The Fenimore Art Museum at Cooperstown) where I sit on both education and development boards. I also plan on looking into substitute teaching this fall. Another top priority will be visiting my children and grandchildren, all of whom reside in the south (NC and VA). Cooking, reading, and playing games will keep my days filled with activity.
Q: If you can pass any wisdom to your students what would it be?
A: My advice to my students would be always be true to yourself and stay positive. I would also add to keep up your reading every day!
Q: What is your favorite quote?
A: I have two:
“In the end, only kindness matters.” - Jewel
“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” - Helen Keller