STEM Educator and Military Wife Finds Joy in Teaching Science and Math

Shayla Fortenberry

Shayla Fortenberry
B.A., Interdisciplinary Studies K-8
Corpus Christi, Texas

Some people know the path of their profession early in life. As a young girl Shayla used to assign seats to her stuffed animals in her bedroom where she taught them the core subjects. She even added ballet to their educational line up to be sure they were well rounded in the arts. What her parents might have thought an adorable phase never passed. Several years later, Shayla entered high school, and under the wise mentorship of her "Ready, Set, Teach" instructor, Mrs. Smith, she learned much about the teaching profession before graduating high school.

“Mrs. Smith prepared me for what to expect in the classroom,” explains Shayla. “She taught me how to handle ethical situations, how to manage a classroom, and helped me to prepare for college. After my time with her I felt even more encouraged to be able to make a difference in a student’s life; and that made me want to be a teacher even more!”

Today, Shayla is a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) educator, teaching math and science 3rd and 4th graders at a public charter school in North Padre Island. She and her husband of 2.5 years live in Corpus Christi where he is stationed with the U.S. Coast Guard.

The WGU Texas model of online, competency-based education worked for Shayla’s life, allowing her the flexibility to plan moves and her wedding. “On quiet days I could devote 10 or more hours to my studies, when my personal life allowed me to really take it all in. I think I learned more this way,” she said.

“I love being a STEM educator,” she said. “The majority of my lessons are hands-on. My students get to physically walk through their learning and find explanations to support their reasoning. It’s very rewarding to see a young student who not only knows the correct answer, but can defend it when I question them about it.”

She thinks the most exciting thing about teaching science and math is that she will never know all of the answers. “There are always new theories,” she said. “There are new explanations, findings, and studies giving us new materials and insights. Sometimes I get to learn right alongside my students.”

Looking back on her teaching degree with WGU Texas she says, “It was a valuable education. I learned a lot while researching teaching strategies, never allowing myself to become complacent. Teaching is an art, what works for one student won’t work for the next. What motivates your students in the fall may change by spring,” she said. “It’s important to allow yourself to evolve as a teacher.”

Shayla received the full-time teaching offer from the school at which she did her demonstration teaching as part of her WGU Texas Bachelor of Arts, Interdisciplinary Studies K-8.

While she’s no longer lining up stuffed animals for class, she does direct her love of teaching to others, currently helping the rescue dog she and her husband recently adopted to succeed in his education. Riley (pictured at left) recently successfully passed puppy class.

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