Maplewood music teacher named a finalist for Teacher of the Year


Shaylee McComb

Weaver Elementary School music teacher Shaylee McComb is a finalist for the 2018 Minnesota Teacher of the Year award.

Earlier this year, McComb stood out to judges from a pool of 167 candidates and was chosen as one of 43 semi-finalists. Then, on April 5, it was announced that she is now one of 12 finalists.

The Teacher of the Year award is presented by Education Minnesota, the state’s teachers’ union, and candidates for the award include pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade and Adult Basic Education teachers from public and private schools across the state. 

A panel of community leaders will meet May 5 to interview each of the 12 finalists and to cast votes for this year’s winner, who will be announced May 6. 

 

Surrounded by support

“Shaylee is an amazing music teacher,” says Weaver Principal Pangjua Xiong, adding, “She has phenomenal skills in bringing out the best in every student.”

McComb holds a bachelor’s degree in music education from the University of Northwestern in St. Paul and a master’s degree in education in differentiated instruction from Concordia University in St. Paul. She has been the music teacher for Weaver Elementary School students in kindergarten through fifth-grade since August 2012.

McComb says part of her always knew she was going to be a teacher because “being a teacher is kind of in my DNA.” 

Her father is a physical education and health teacher who also spends a lot of time coaching, and her mother is an elementary school music teacher, too. Still, McComb remembers her moment of true inspiration as the time when, as a college sophomore, she observed Jody McCormick, Weaver’s former music teacher.

“I set foot in her music room and never wanted to leave,” McComb says. “Long story short — the Lord blessed me, and I am teaching music at the very same Weaver Elementary School where I fell in love with teaching music for the ‘little people.’ It is my actual dream job.”

McComb says that over the years, she has had many mentors — teachers, coaches, staff, principals and professors who have “spoken truth, invested time, modeled life and poured love” into her — but her high school choir director, Melissa Hanson, is one whose impact really stands out in McComb’s mind.

McComb says Hanson believed in her and provided her with leadership opportunities, and McComb remembers Hanson regularly going above and beyond for her students.

“Ms. Hanson made choir and musical rehearsals the most magical part of my day,” McComb says. “She made music like oxygen for me and I always wanted more of it.  Music fed her soul and brought her real joy, and I wanted that life.”

 

Going above and beyond 

“Shaylee is an energetic force within the community,” Xoing says. “Her positive and cheerful attitude with students, families and staff make the whole school community a happier place.”

McComb says her favorite part of her job is watching her students connect with music. She says she has seen students close their eyes and sing like no one is watching, sing with tears rolling down their eyes during a Veterans Day performance and feel successful after taking musical risks like auditioning or performing a solo. 

The need for teachers to always do more is what McComb feels is the hardest part of the job. She explains that teachers help students learn kindness, responsibility, safety and coping strategies, in addition to teaching school subjects.  

Many teachers also buy students school supplies and winter cloths, slip food into backpacks, ensure students have rides home, help with homework and advocate for their students.

“We do all that and more with sometimes ridiculously large class sizes,” McComb says. “We overcome those challenges because we believe that what we do is powerful, and we love our students.”

According to a self-written Teacher of the Year profile, McComb believes that in order to do her job effectively, she must truly get to know the students. She said that it is important to her to show her students that she cares about who they are, what they believe, how they are feeling and what their goals are.

Her profile adds that she makes sure to memorize and pronounce correctly the names of the 550 students she works with, and researches on her own time to better understand the various cultures and religious backgrounds of those students.

“She strives to learn about every student and to build on the strengths of students,” Xoing says. “Every student at Weaver is able to perform at least once a year because of Shaylee’s commitment to making sure that students have opportunities to shine.”

In addition to building relationships with her students, McComb also builds relationships with their families and attends special events for her students when she’s invited. 

Said McComb, “I want the climate and culture of our music room to be a safe place to create, perform, play, dance, sing, move and experience joy. Without kindness we cannot have that environment. This world needs more of it!”

 

– Aundrea Kinney can be reached at 651-748-7822 or akinney@lillienews.com

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