Teaching through Educational Experiences
When Shai Gaines was a little girl, she created a school for her dolls that included lesson plans and graded work. “I even scheduled transitions between classes for them.” As the daughter of a teacher in Baltimore, Shai knew from a very young age that educational experiences were important to her, and that she wanted to be a teacher as well.
However, Shai was also interested in art and architecture, and earned her Bachelor’s degree in Studio Art. She used this degree to work in the Baltimore City schools, as a second grade teacher, while pursuing her Master’s degree in Education. Shai found that she loved teaching, and especially loved teaching younger students. “When I find an area in which I flourish, I want to go full throttle.” Shai earned her Master’s degree, and after moving to Texas, began working for Laurel Springs.
Teaching in Distance Learning
“Distance learning is the most insightful experience I have ever come across in the education system. It allows parents and students to have more control over the way in which they learn, and is student-centered. I am the subject matter expert when families need support, and children help guide their own educational experiences.”
Shai believes that it is essential to have a strong relationship with her students and their families. When a new student is assigned to her, she introduces herself to the family and also sends the student a questionnaire. “I can definitely see personality in language arts, history, and science assignments, but I want to know my students before we work together academically.” Shai interacts with her families via phone and email, and also enjoys hosting virtual classes “which are multisensory presentations that many kids enjoy.” She feels that as the home mentors, parents are her partners in K-8 education. One parent said, “Anytime I need her help, she is quick to give me an explanation.”
When students send assignments to Shai, she feels that her feedback is “affirmation of progress and identification of what can be done better next week.” Another parent whose children take classes with Shai said, “She really is the most positive, encouraging teacher that any of my kids have had. I see them beaming as they read me the comments that she writes to them after she evaluates their work. They often submit assignments with extra thought put into them, just to see if she picks up on the extra effort–and she always does. It’s so rewarding for them. She also asks them to give a little more when they don’t submit lessons with as much effort as they are capable of, which I appreciate. I see a legitimate positive attitude about schoolwork in my kids because of what she has done for them this year.”
Shai, whose roster includes Academy students, feels that age should not limit a child’s potential; she strives to quickly identify a child’s gaps, and then help them to learn the skills that they need through educational experiences. For example, a parent said, “For the first time, a teacher actually called me to see if the kids were challenged enough by their schoolwork. In the past, I have always had to beg teachers to teach to their level rather than their grade or age, and my requests have been ignored. Ms. Gaines recognized right away that the kids might need some customization, took the initiative to call me, and has been working with them to implement a revised Language Arts curriculum. She is incredibly professional, and her virtual classes are always entertaining and interesting. She is also very prompt in giving the children feedback on their assignments.”
In her free time, Shai loves to swim, travel, and curl up on a couch with a good book. She lives in Texas with her husband and two young children.