TEACHER OF THE MONTH — Special education leader Chassity Shelton celebrates small gains for major impact

Published 12:20 am Wednesday, August 30, 2023

FANNETT — For teacher Chassity Shelton, it’s the small things that mean a lot.

Shelton is an instructor for structured learning, and this school year’s special education department head at Hamshire-Fannett Elementary School.

Her students range from kindergarten to fifth grade, because there is no life skills class at the intermediate school, Principal Monica Kattner said.

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“She is always positive,” Kattner said of Shelton. “She finds the good in everything.”

Shelton was named the Teacher of the Month, sponsored by Philpott Motors. With the designation comes a $500 gift card and a chance to earn the title of Teacher of the Year.

Shelton came to the career by a different path than a typical teacher. She worked in community mental health in Mississippi for nine years before her husband got a job in Texas. She was a stay-at-home mom for a while, then got a job as a paraprofessional at Hamshire-Fannett High School in life skills.

But once Superintendent Dr. Dwaine Augustine learned she had a degree and background in mental health, he pushed her to become a teacher.

Shelton has been with the district for five years and a teacher for four.

When asked why she does what she does, she answered easily.

“I love it. The little milestones that they hit in the classroom are huge,” Shelton said. “One of the nonverbal kids, we heard him say ‘bye-bye.’ and it was amazing. It’s the little things.”

People on the outside may consider her job difficult, and she agrees but added it can be very rewarding.

The motto at the elementary school is “kindness begins with me” and positivity is all around from signs on the walls to the staff’s T-shirts that say “Smile and change the world” on the front.

Keeping the positivity in the classroom is something Shelton practices and extends to her students.

“They are special in so many ways. It can be hard one minute, and then the next minute they’re just loving on you and that’s all they want,” Shelton said. “So those moments outweigh anything else that happens in the classroom. It’s a lot more rewarding than it is difficult.”

While working with the students, she uses flashcards, interactive videos and a lot of one-on-one work.

The classroom has students of various ages and abilities, and Shelton has two paraprofessionals in the room with her.

Shelton considers Hamshire-Fannett Independent School District the best district to work for and said they are very supportive. She recalled last year when her mother battled breast cancer.

She went straight to Kattner’s office to explain what was going on and was told to take care of her mom. She was able to work around her mother’s doctor’s appointments.

“It’s a family,” she said of the district.