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  • Elyssa Gerstel

All-Star Teacher Devotes Career to John Marshall

Shelly Campbell, an English teacher at John Marshall High School, tears up when talking about her favorite part of the job.

"Just seeing kids get it. Seeing kids when they think they can't do something and being able to do it,” said Campbell. "There’s nothing like that.”

Campbell was the 2011 Oklahoma City Public Schools’ Teacher of the Year. When OKC FRIDAY asks members of our All Star Scholars and Leaders team at graduation time from John Marshall to describe the teacher who has had the greatest influence on them, she is always named in the majority of their responses.

Growing up, Campbell vowed to herself that she would never be a teacher, after watching both her parents dedicate their whole lives to the education field. However, Campbell’s mind was quickly shifted after being asked to be an English tutor for a friend’s brother in college.

"I (decided) there’s no fighting this at this point, I am loving (teaching),” she said. "This is what I have to do.”

Campbell’s first teaching job right out of college was at John Marshall High School and she has been there ever since, dedicating almost 30 years of service to the local community. Campbell admits that she was just thrown into the job with very little guidance, but has found her way as one of John Marshall’s favorite teachers. "There’s no reason to leave when you love it,” said Campbell.

According to 2017 data by the Oklahoma City Public School District, 71.1 percents of students qualify for free-and-reduced lunch at John Marshall, compared to the 62.7 percent state average.

Campbell believes in the power of fostering a comfortable and supportive environment for her students.

"School can be a safe place. A place where (students) can get fed and loved …” said Campbell. "Sometimes, school can be a retreat for (students). So you want to be that soft place they can land, for you to believe in them, for you to push them.”

As for Campbell’s teaching philosophy, she believes in finding connections with each student, so that they can learn in the best way. Campbell makes sure to take an individualist approach to each student so that she can find out what motivates them to be the most successful learner.

"I really focus on building relationships (with my students), getting to know them, seeing who they are and learning about their likes and dislikes,” said Campbell.

Despite all the work Campbell puts into her teaching, she recognizes that the public has many misconceptions about her profession. For one, she believes that many people do not realize how much time and dedication teachers put into their students, never just working during the school day but late nights and early mornings. Additionally, the public may think that teachers can easily take summers off, but Campbell has worked on something for school every single day of summer break.

"There’s a lot of joy in this profession,” said Campbell. "But if you don’t give yourself all the way to it, you are cheating yourself and your students, in my opinion.”

As for Campbell’s life outside of work, she is married to her husband, who is also a teacher at John Marshall and has two grown children. She enjoys reading and doing genealogy of her family history by visiting old cemeteries.

Campbell’s passion for educating can be summed up in one quote:

"Yes I teach English, but I teach kids first,” she said.

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