By Ida Brown / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Meridian Star
While she has often joked that she was genetically predisposed to teach (both her parents were teachers) and even vowed while growing up that she would "never follow in those footsteps," Shauna Rynn Waters is indeed a teacher.
"I can't imagine doing anything else," said Waters, who, for nine years, has taught AP English Literature and Composition as well as English IV at Meridian High School. "I am happiest in my classroom with my students."
In addition to her current post, Waters taught in the Intensive English Program at Indiana University, Bloomington, Ind., for a year, and two years in the Comparative Cultures Department at Aichi University, Toyohashi, Japan.
A world traveler, it was during one of her travels that Waters says she "got serious" about becoming a teacher.
"When I traveled to Costa Rica the second time, several of the families we were working with were split with their fathers working in the U.S. in jobs that were hard and sometimes dangerous, and I saw how something like having a basic working knowledge of English could help better their lives," she said.
Adapting has been a constant challenge throughout her teaching career. Coming from the world of teaching collegiate-level English in another country to the world of American K-12 was the first of many such endeavors.
"I am still constantly rising to the challenge of adapting. Each new year, each new batch of students, and each new education policy handed down by the government require flexibility. It’s just as important for me now as it was when I first started," she said.
"I also think it's very important to keep learning and growing in my knowledge of subject-area information and of best practices and to connect with professionals from all over who are doing the same thing. In fact, this goal is one that has grown stronger with time. I’ve been fortunate to be a part of a district that believes in professional development and also to find some other opportunities that have allowed me to work with teachers on anational and international level.
Described by one of her peers as dedicated to her students and one who believes in their value, Waters said she hopes her students also perceive her that way.
"My students are the greatest thing in the world. Even on those days they’re driving me absolutely nuts, as teenagers will sometimes do, the sheer potential for greatness every one of them has is a wonderfully hopeful thing," she said. "I love to see the look in their eyes when they 'get it,' when the connection between the literature or the writing or whatever the skill we’re working snaps into place and their world is just that tiniest bit richer for it."
But her students aren't the only ones learning. Through teaching, Waters has also learned a few things – about herself.
"I have learned that enough caffeine will carry you through everything," she said jokingly. "I have learned that I am more like my mother than I thought possible. I have learned that when all else fails, to laugh, backup, regroup, and try something else. I have learned that there are no higher goals than the ones expressed in two quotes, 'You must be the change that you wish to see in the world,' by Gandhi and, 'Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.'”
Bitten by the travel bug, Waters said she gets “itchy feet” on a regular basis and take short trips here or there. However, international travel is her passion.
"It started when I was in college and went to Costa Rica for a summer study-abroad internship, and it grew from there," she said. "I’ve been fortunate enough to go to Japan (lived there two years), Thailand, the UK, Ireland, Italy, and Brazil. If a passport is needed, it thrills my soul."
While she doesn't consider herself a photographer, Waters can often be seen behind the camera.
" ... The results are nothing that grand, but I do enjoy it," she said. "I guess that started because when I was growing up, my grandmother was always taking pictures of the family and all our events."
Waters also enjoys being creative with her hands. She worked as an apprentice in a stained glass studio for two years in college. And she has tried her hand at pottery, calligraphy, and various forms of sewing. She is currently working on redesigning her backyard with recycled items.
"It’s a work in progress, to say the least," she said.
Waters writes – both poetry and short fiction – "when the muse takes me," she said. She won the MCC Literary Competition's community division for poetry two separate years. An avid reader, Waters said she reads "anything that doesn’t run away first."
"I am so grateful for the advent of the e-reader because I quite literally don’t know where I would put another bookshelf in this house," she said.
The daughter of John Waters (who taught 10 years at Ross Collins) and Pam Waters (who taught at West Lauderdale 35 years), Waters serves as Department Chair and adviser of the National Honor Society at MHS. She is a member of Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, a professional honorary society of women educators, and the Mississippi Association of Educators. She also serves as night organist at Chunky Baptist Church.
Waters words of advice to first-year teachers:
"If you’re just starting out, it’s not going to be what you thought it was. No education course or observation can prepare you for the reality of being a teacher. That’s totally okay. What you might find, if you’re willing to be flexible and keep your sense of humor, is that it is actually something much, much better. Stand firm and stick with it."