The ability to collaborate and help others in solving problems is a very important skill for students who will one day move into careers in all phases of our society. Math, by its very nature, helps students develop problem solving skills.
Shelbie Pittman has spent a decade as a teacher and teaches 3rd grade math at Snow Rogers Elementary School. Our Q&A, for our Teacher Spotlight Series, with Shelbie touches on how she became a teacher, her philosophy in helping her students learn to collaborate and what it was like teaching during the pandemic.
Treye Hanner: Tell us a little about you and how you decided to become a teacher?
Shelbie Pittman: I am known as Shelbie, Mrs. Pittman, or “teacher.” I have been married to my husband Matt for ten years. We have two daughters, Braelie and Adleigh, and our son, Baylor.
We live in Gardendale and attend ChristWay Church. Our daughters keep us busy between dance, gymnastics, softball, and basketball. I have been teaching at Snow Rogers Elementary for ten years. I spent eight years teaching Kindergarten, and this is my second year teaching third grade math.
I grew up in Mount Olive and graduated from Gardendale High School. I attended college at UAB where I graduated with an Early Childhood/Elementary Education degree in 2012. I knew at a very young age that I wanted to become a teacher.
I have three siblings, so I always had “students” who would follow my directions and complete my math tests. I remember teaching my stuffed animals and Barbie dolls. I am so thankful to be living out my childhood dream each day.
Treye Hanner: What is your favorite part of being a teacher?
Shelbie Pittman: I would say my favorite part of being a teacher is being able to create a safe learning environment for my students. I strive to be encouraging, supportive, and understanding. My students know what is expected of them, and they quickly learn how to respect each other’s feelings and boundaries.
Treye Hanner: Are there special moments where you say to yourself, “this is why I teach?”
Shelbie Pittman: “I learned more from my students than they learned from me.” I heard this quote from my college professor, and it stuck with me. I encourage my students to explain, teach, and learn from each other. I admire them for sharing their thoughts and explaining their problem-solving skills. I tell them I want to learn from them, and they think that is the coolest thing! I teach to help guide my students to solve problems their way, not just my way.
Treye Hanner: What challenges have you experienced while having to teach through the pandemic?
Shelbie Pittman: Teaching through the pandemic came with many unexpected emotions. I was teaching Kindergarten in March of 2020. One day, I was having a morning meeting on my carpet full of five year olds; a couple weeks later, I was hosting a virtual meeting with little faces on my computer screen.
How would I know if they were fed, safe, and happy? I knew I could not meet all their education needs on a screen, so it made it very difficult to end the year.
I moved to third grade in the fall of 2020. I started the year off by meeting my three classes on Webex meetings. Our students gradually returned to school, and we settled into our “new normal.” Teachers were planning for virtual, in-person, and quarantined students. Teachers were asked to stay apart, so we planned over Webex meetings and spread across classrooms. We made the best of this crazy time, and we learned to smile through the uncertainty.
This school year has been the most routine since the pandemic started. I will never take in-class meetings for granted. I adore seeing their smiles and hearing their laughter. I love hearing students talking to each other, walking the halls, and playing at recess. This year’s challenges will never compare to the last two years. This year I am thankful!
Treye Hanner: What’s the one thing you would like people to know about teachers?
Shelbie Pittman: Teachers plan, worry, and pray. We plan our lessons and activities. We worry if all of our students will eat dinner and have a warm bed. We pray that we can get everything done and make each child feel important. Teachers love their students.