Teacher education professor builds communities in her classroom

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Kathryn O’Connor                                       
News Editor

“What I love about my college and my department is that the students come first.” Photo courtesy of Mimi Boswell/Marketing & Communications Manager

Growing up as the youngest of eight children, helping out with Sunday school and babysitting, Saundra Shillingstad was always surrounded by the future students she would dedicate her career to teaching. 

“Some people knew that they were born to be a teacher, and I’m very much an introvert,” Shillingstad said. “In my mind, teaching is very extroverted, and it didn’t really seem like that would be something I would be comfortable doing. Then I got to work at a summer camp, and the experience confirmed that I wanted to be a teacher.” 

Shillingstad earned all three of her degrees from Kansas State University, including a master’s degree in Learning Disabilities, Behavioral Disorders and Intellectual Deficits, as well as a doctorate in Educational Administration and Leadership.

During her undergraduate years, majoring in special education, Shillingstad was a paraprofessional to a little girl with cerebral palsy for three years. 

“With education as my major and readily within my first couple practicum experiences, I realized that my love and passion was for special education,” Shillingstad said.

For the last 22 years, Shillingstad has used her extensive background to teach in her role as a professor for the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences. She’s taught a variety of course loads to include Elementary Social Studies Methods, Effective Teaching Practices, and Human Growth and Learning.

Now, Shillingstad teaches Educational Foundations, a history and philosophy class. 

“My class uses flipped pedagogy,” Shillingstad said. “This means that students must have their assignments read prior to class because I want them to look more deeply at what it is that they just read or what it is that my golden objective for the chapter, unit or lesson is.”

Shillingstad’s methods extend beyond the educational material taught in her lectures; She prides herself in creating a community for her students to ensure their success. 

“I want students to create partnerships and friendships,” Shillingstad said.

With the fall semester beginning, Shillingstad said she is excited to return to full-time in-person learning and rebuilding the communities on campus. 

“I get just as nervous for the first day of school as I did 31 years ago,” Shillingstad said. “It’s always exciting. I’m looking forward to seeing the students. They are my bright spot. What I love about my college and my department is that the students come first.”

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