Shawn Sthreshley is a Title I instructional coach at Hening Elementary, but the road he took to get there was anything but straightforward.
When he was younger, Sthreshley wanted to be a preacher, and he gave sermons on the back porch. During high school, his dreams shifted to being a doctor (he shadowed a cardiologist), and he thought about getting into a pre-med plan. Once at college, however, he became passionate about math, so he pursued a math degree.
A few semesters later, he realized he’d been reading a lot of religious and philosophy texts, and knew he wanted to be in an institution that provided meaning in people’s lives, so he received a religious studies degree at VCU and a master of theology at Union Presbyterian Seminary.
After being the director of Christian education in an Episcopal church, a customer service representative, and an insurance liaison, Sthreshley decided to teach after being inspired by his wife, Amy, who is a kindergarten teacher at Clover Hill. He saw the positive differences she was making and said he was at a point in his life at which he looked at the way things were in the world and felt that kids needed to be prepared to become critical thinkers.
“I wanted to create a more positive direction in the lives of students and basically for our country, and that inspired me to get into education,” Sthreshley said.
Sthreshley received his master of teaching in elementary education from VCU and post-master’s certificate in Educational Leadership. He has been teaching since 2005 and taught at Miles Jones Elementary in Richmond and at Swift Creek Elementary before heading to Hening.
As the Title I instructional coach, Sthreshley’s responsibility is to the teachers and staff. He supports instruction and what the teachers are planning. He sometimes co-teaches and said he misses being primarily in the classroom, but loves the role he’s in now.
“I’m able to get around to so many staff members …[to] get in so many classrooms [and] I know kids all over the school,” Sthreshley said. “I’m able to be with teachers to help them empower their magic of teaching, and I really feel that that can make a positive difference as well.”
Sthreshley is currently working on his doctorate in educational psychology, and he is not sure where he’ll end up working, but he’s happy with what he’s doing. He said his experiences gave him a lot of perspective when it came to viewing and relating to people and trying to understand where everybody comes from.
Sthreshley said he wants Hening to accomplish its goals, namely that the school meet its requirements and that every student is succeeding at the expected level.
“Part of that, I think, is the goal of helping to nurture teachers to be the best that they can be, to believe in themselves, to get them to a point where they feel competent to do their job well,” Sthreshley said, “to be able to feel like they can make decisions that [will] positively impact their students, and to have great relationships with not just the whole school community but especially the staff members.”
Sthreshley wanted to be able to lay his head on his pillow and know that he gave what he had to try to make things better, and he feels he’s been able to do that. He was in complete shock yet honored by his Teacher of the Year award, and he said he is appreciative of his colleagues who nominated him and voted for him.
“It was very humbling, and I definitely [feel] appreciated for what I’m trying to do here…trying to help teachers and staff,” Sthreshley said. “We’re all in this together, trying to make differences for students and their families, and I feel honored to be a part of that.”