In October, former Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Dr. Phil Hammonds completed his service as Bold Goals Coalition Education Steering Committee Co-Chair, but his seat didn’t stay vacant for long. Longtime Bold Goals Education Steering Committee member and dedicated educator Dr. Melissa Shields stepped up to take on the key role. She joins Bill Jones, who continues as Education Co-Chair.
Dr. Shields’ career in education spans almost three decades, more than half of which was spent in the classroom. Through the years, she taught a variety of subjects to students in every grade between fifth and twelfth, including English to both of her now-grown daughters. The years in the classroom gave her in-depth insight into the impact educators can have, but her first realization of the difference a teacher can make in the life of a child came at a very early age.
“My third-grade teacher saw something in me that I didn’t,” she said. “She planted the seed by showing me that I was smarter than I think I am. As a classroom teacher, I kept that mindset, because I had so many students coming to me who were defeated for various reasons. I took it as a personal challenge to help them.”
It turned out that Dr. Shields’ third-grade teacher was just the first of many who would ignite her passion for education.
“I didn’t know my potential until it was revealed to me by really great teachers,” she said. “It was even a professor who said to me, ‘If you don’t teach, you’re missing your calling.’ And I think he was right.”
Dr. Shields, a National Board Certified Teacher, moved to the administrative side of education back in 2007, but she continues to rely on her experience as a teacher, noting that she believes keeping the classroom close to her heart makes her better at her present job. Her work at the Alabama Department of Education as Regional Support Coordinator, serving schools in North and Central Alabama, first got her involved with Bold Goals not long after the group’s inception five years ago. She credits the coalition’s collaborative approach to solving big community problems with extending the impact teachers and administrators can have beyond the traditional measures of education.
“We’re seeing schools focus less on test scores and instead work to support students and provide them with a safe place where they can feel loved and valued.”
Although she finds working with schools, in her current position, to ensure that all students know their worth, Dr. Shields hopes to one day return to the classroom.
“I would love to finish the last few years of my career holed up in a ninth-grade English class somewhere, just trying to save the world one student at a time.”