Elwood High School English teacher Shane Arnold leads his class in a spirited discussion on “what would you do” in different circumstances. Staff photo by John P. Cleary
Elwood High School English teacher Shane Arnold leads his class in a spirited discussion on “what would you do” in different circumstances. Staff photo by John P. Cleary
ELWOOD — Like many high school students, Shane Arnold was introduced to the classic works of William Shakespeare.

And like many high school students, the characters and plot of “Romeo and Juliet” may have been accessible for him, but the language was not.

It wasn’t until he took a college-level Shakespeare course in which Arnold was assigned to read one play a week, that Arnold finally was able to crack the code.

“By the end, I was sort of used to that and was OK with the language. But I don’t have that kind of time with my students to read a different play every week or every other week,” he said. “I love Shakespeare, and it’s tough to get excited when the students are absolutely hating it.”

That’s why Arnold, 26, a Kokomo resident who is in his third year of teaching English at Elwood Jr.-Sr. High School, hopes to spend this school year developing an experimental unit.

“I am trying to do that through song and song lyrics with some of the speeches found in ‘Romeo and Juliet,’” he said.

The development of that unit is part of the Indiana Department of Education’s inaugural Teacher Leaders Bootcamp.

Arnold was one of two teachers from Madison County to participate in the inaugural boot camp. Pendleton Heights Middle School seventh grade science teacher Rick W. Johnson also participated.

They were among 50 educators from throughout the state selected in the special series of five-day sessions.

The boot camp is one of many efforts by state officials to improve recruitment, retention and development of excellent educators by helping them gain knowledge and experience, build connections, and engage in professional learning. The sessions include webinars and in-person classes.

“Indiana is full of passionate and dedicated teachers devoted every day to the success of our students,” Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick said in a press release. “As a former teacher, I understand the importance of growing effective educator leadership systems. I am excited to kick off Indiana’s Teacher Leaders Bootcamp and equip teachers with the knowledge and tools they need to further lead their districts and schools to success.”

The yearlong boot camp offers the teacher-leaders, such as Arnold, an introduction to “action research,” a process in which the participants build on their knowledge of pedagogy to transform the way they teach. Participants then are expected to return to their buildings and train others in the process, which includes “wondering” about a question, research on projects that can help answer those questions and data collection.

“It was scary at first. I didn’t know what action research was. It sounded a lot like a research paper. But really, we’re already doing it and just adding to it,” he said. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of things we’re already doing.”

The boot camp shows teachers how they can take control of their classrooms and not wait to be directed by administrators, Arnold said. That, he said, gives control back to teachers who feel so much has been taken from them over the past several decades through increased paperwork and accountability measures.

Once the year is over, Arnold said, the process he has learned will be useful in developing future units. He said it encourages teachers to revamp those units periodically.

“In the long run, I hope to find a better way to connect with my students instead of finding one way of keeping that for the next 25 years,” he said.

The process also might be useful as Arnold later pursues a master’s degree.

“I can definitely see this as a tool to help me in a master’s program,” he said.

Though the administrators at Elwood believe he has leadership qualities, Arnold said he’s not yet ready to abandon the classroom.

“It’s not something that I want to do right now. I love teaching too much,” he said. “I believe the reason I enjoy teaching so much is because I am young and relate more to the students. Maybe when I’m older and don’t relate so much, I will want to go into an administrative role.”

Elwood Principal Tami Davis and her team nominated Arnold for the boot camp.

“He is an excellent, strong young teacher, and his leadership skills were key in the administration selecting him to attend, and in return come back and lead his peers with the training that he will be working on all year and doing professional development for his peers next year in implementing the strategies that he has learned.”
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