Q & A with DK Fellow Shelby Edwards
Shelby Edwards is Donnell-Kay’s new fellow for the 2011-2012 school year. She is currently pursuing a master of public administration degree from the University of Colorado Denver. She earned her BA in sociology from Bowling Green State University in northwest Ohio. Shelby, a recent Colorado transplant, lives in Denver with her husband. She enjoys spending her free time outside exploring Colorado or running along park paths.
Why are you passionate about education?
I found my passion for education through an unconventional route. I have never been a teacher or even worked for a school district. My experience is in non-profits with AmeriCorps and United Way. I served on a coalition of local service agencies whose mission was to find ways to eliminate poverty in our community through agency collaboration. One thing that struck me was that we had no one from the school district in our coalition. Every person sitting in those meetings knew how much a quality education could help break generational poverty cycles, and yet, there we were collaborating without the one of the most important organizations. I immediately turned my focus to educational programming.
I am passionate about systemic reform that will increase student achievement. Yet it is not just about the higher-thinking policy reform or implementation. I volunteer with two Denver schools in their literacy programs. Twice a week I get to read with middle-school students and talk about books. It’s great to experience the school environment and it keeps my focus on the students.
You’re in the graduate program at UCD’s School of Public Affairs. Describe why you went back to school & what you hope to learn.
With a background in sociology and non-profit work, I realized I needed a bridge between my previous experience and my passion for education. The graduate program at UCD’s School of Public Affairs is a great way for me to sharpen my research and critical thinking abilities. I will also be able to gain a better understanding of public management and leadership. I knew that if I wanted to be an active participant in the Colorado education community, I would need a better understanding of the Colorado education landscape and governance process – that is what I am hoping to gain not only through the program at UCD but through the DK fellowship.
What are one or two projects you’re working on for DK?
One of the things I’m looking at a lot right is now is innovation in schools. At DK, we’re really interested in how to measure innovation and what innovation looks like within the classroom, school, and district. Some of that requires research on categories and criteria for defining innovation. It also involves reading a lot of great stories about educators that are doing new and successful things in their classrooms to increase engagement and performance of their students.
I’m also very interested in reengaging students that are off-track to graduation. It is imperative to find successful programs that can tailor educational opportunities to our most at-risk students. I’ve been looking at national models as well as models we have right here in Colorado that work to meet the needs of this population. By identifying successful educational models, DK can drive the conversation forward and advocate for positive educational reform.