Shanna Peeples was named USA 2015 National Teacher of the Year on April 27, 2015 and was presented with her award by the President of the United States, Barack Obama.
She took a circuitous route to the classroom. She worked as a disc jockey, medical assistant, pet sitter and journalist before teaching, as she says, chose her. Peeples now teaches at Palo Duro High School in Amarillo, Texas, where she spends half of her day as a high school English teacher and the other half mentoring, coaching and challenging her colleagues to grow in the teaching profession.
At Palo Duro High School, her students come from many different backgrounds. Amarillo is one of several cities in the United States that helps refugees find new paths in life and gain access to critical resources. As a result, Peeples works with many students who speak English as a second language or recently entered the United States from another country.
“My students, survivors of deep and debilitating trauma, have shaped the kind of teacher I am,” she says. “They have taught me to never make a promise I can’t keep because so many already have learned to see the world through suspicious eyes. To be the best teacher to them, I have to remember this and honor their background. I remember so I can gain their trust because I want them to read and write their way out of where they are.”
As the 2015 National Teacher of the Year, Shanna is shaping the conversation in this country about working with students in poverty, and those who have already faced extreme challenges in their young lives. Through a variety of teaching methods, Peeples reaches her students and helps them achieve their full potential far beyond her classroom walls.
Shanna has taught for the past 12 years, four of them in her current role. She earned an Associate’s degree from Amarillo College, a Bachelor of Arts from West Texas A&M University and a Master of Education from the University of Texas at Arlington.