Becoming an educator was not always the plan for Shannon McKenzie.
She had dreams of becoming a journalist, but after giving birth to her daughter, McKenzie put those plans on hold.
Her love for teaching preschool-aged children was born out of her love for being a mother and a teacher to her own child. McKenzie opened a preschool in Frederick County in 2000.
“I had this knack and really wanted to share it with others,” she said. “I felt like maybe other parents would appreciate this sort of style I had.”
For the past seven years, McKenzie has worked towards the growth and development of children from age 4 through high school in MCPS. She has spent the last two of those years growing the early child development program at Clarksburg High School. The program teaches enrolled students how to work with children in a variety of educational settings and uses research-based methods for developing and implementing lessons.
Since joining the staff, McKenzie has transformed the program, demonstrating her unique ability to connect with students of all ages. She has more than doubled program enrollment in one year—from 41 to 95 students—cultivating a passion for teaching in young people.
“She has effortlessly touched the lives of many students and families,” said Edward Owusu, principal at Clarksburg High School.
One of her students said, “She makes the classroom environment a really safe place. She makes it so that not only are we just learning, but we're learning life skills.”
McKenzie also prepares and arranges intern/mentor partnerships for high school students in her program to learn and work directly in classrooms in Clarksburg cluster schools.
Her latest endeavor is establishing a chapter of Educators Rising at Clarksburg, with the goal of cultivating a “grow your own” pipeline of MCPS students returning to teach in the system. She is working to develop partnerships with local colleges that would allow more students to earn an associate degree before high school graduation. This would also provide the opportunity to launch a National Honor Society, or for students to attend national conferences and participate in national skills-based competitions.
“My goal is to model how a teacher can impact your life as a high schooler and, hopefully, inspire these high schoolers to maybe, one day, become educators,” McKenzie said.