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Meet Shanice Wright: Pre-K3 Teacher at Miner Elementary School

On a recent sunny morning, a pre-K3 classroom at Miner Elementary School on 15th St. NE was a busy place. Children crowded around a teacher’s aide holding one of the fuzzy chicks that had hatched in the incubator they had been tending. Others gathered in a corner of the room that, reflecting the subject they had chosen to study, had become a pet store. Stuffed dogs and cats were available for adoption. Several children were coloring and cutting out pictures of pets and pet vocabulary words, while in a nearby nook a boy sat quietly with a book.

Amid it all was teacher Shanice Wright. “I love the kiddos,” she said, adding, as if it were not obvious, “I am happy in the classroom.” She has, she says, found her “purpose.”

It wasn’t always apparent to her what that purpose was. Describing herself as “super-shy” and “in the shadow of my sister Nicole,” Wright grew up in Northeast not far from the school where she now teaches. She attended Ludlow-Taylor Elementary school, where sister Nicole was a year ahead of her, and where her mother, a “staple” of her life, was an administrator.

In second grade their mother wanted a more diverse student body, and both sisters transferred to Watkins. From there they went to Stuart-Hobson Middle School, and for high school they chose McKinley Tech, the District’s premier STEM-focused school. Being “super interested in forensics” and envisaging a career gathering evidence and solving crimes, Wright chose the biotech track.

For college Wright again followed her sister, this time to Virginia State University, an historically Black college in Petersburg. There she explored another of her interests – fashion design. But an elective course in education that sent her to visit schools “curated” her developing interest in teaching. As part of Daughters of Destiny, a youth mentorship program sponsored by her church, Wright had helped out with younger children when she was in high school. She began to discern a purpose that involved teaching.

Her life came full circle when, after college graduation, at her mother’s suggestion, she applied for a job at her old elementary school, Ludlow-Taylor. After two years as a para-professional aide in a pre-K classroom, she took her principal’s advice and enrolled in the Relay Graduate School of Education, with classes at TheARC in Southeast and the Walker Jones Education campus in Northwest, to get a master’s degree. During her second year she had a residency at Miner Elementary School. In August 2020 she received her MA and began a job at Miner.

COVID-19 arrived, and soon, rather than setting up a classroom, Wright was transforming her dining room into a space for virtual teaching. Working online was interesting and challenging, but she found herself longing to be back in the classroom with the children.

School, she realized, is about character and care as much as skill and knowledge. And both character and care are best communicated in person.

With the pandemic receding, Shanice is now happily back at school, a lead teacher in pre-K3, but again facing a challenge. She was asked to be a leader in the LEAP program (Learning Together to Advance our Practice), meeting weekly with a group of eight other teachers. Working with adults, she says, has been a stretch. “I’ve been pushed to be uncomfortable,” she says. “But I’ve loved this journey of being uncomfortable.”

She is excited about the future. After a summer when she’ll be babysitting for a child who is a former student, she will probably start next year at New Miner, a beautiful, century-old building next to the existing school, which is being restored as an early childhood center. The surroundings will be new but the tasks will be the same – to stimulate, help and challenge children, to guide them as they choose areas to explore while strengthening their core skills and encouraging their growth and sense of worth.

Shanice’s sister Nicole, now a member of the U.S. Marshals Service, is the first member of their family to earn a B.A. degree. Shanice is the first to receive a Master’s degree. Both women were empowered by the consistent message they got from their mother, who graduated from high school and went on to attend Southeastern University here in DC for a time, and their father, who did not complete his course of study in landscaping at Phelps High School, that nothing about the past should limit their expectations about what they might accomplish in their own lives.  Fortunately for staff and children at Miner Elementary school, it’s a message Ms. Wright is committed to passing on to them.

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