With each creative lesson that Shelby Artman teaches at Hough Elementary School, or each high five or smile of encouragement that she gives to a student, there is a piece of her heart that is given away, too. If you have the opportunity to ever meet Artman, it is evident that she is one of those teachers that kids will remember for their whole lives. That’s because she embodies everything that makes a good teacher – empathy, patience, creativity, dedication and love.
Artman began her teaching career seven years ago as a substitute teacher in the Camas School District. After beginning work at Hough Elementary School in downtown Vancouver six years ago, she dove into her position as a second-grade teacher with her whole heart. She’s never looked back. Day in and day out, she lives and breathes her teaching job, doing whatever she can to make the second-grade year the best year.
But Artman hasn’t always been defined by her teaching abilities. In fact, she was a star soccer player her whole life. She admits that she found her identity in the sport but after a series of devastating injuries, she was forced to stop playing. When she learned she couldn’t play college soccer anymore, it felt like her life would never be the same. Artman had to dig deep and determine what her calling really was in life. If she didn’t have soccer, what did she have? “The one thing I was always known for was taken away in a blink of an eye,” she explains. “After years of trying to find myself, I finally found my niche. That was teaching. I was able to make a positive impact in kids’ lives daily. My goal is to one day be able to travel to high schools and speak about not letting their sport or hobby be the only thing that defines who they are.”
Artman recognizes that alongside education, hobbies and sports are very important for kids, too. Inspiring kids to find what they are good at is something that she is passionate about. And not only has she gone above and beyond for the students in her class, but for the whole school. Soon after beginning work at Hough, she began the Hough Soccer Club. She spends time after school coaching students and works with other teachers to make sure the students are on track in three other areas outside of the field: attendance, behavior and academic progress. Artman explains that starting the club has given her a way to share her love for soccer and to help kids channel their energy into something positive.
She tells one story that especially stands out to her. “Within the soccer club, I discovered one of the kids had a true talent for soccer,” she shares. “His family didn’t have the means or transportation to play for a big club. I was able to use my contacts and get him a try out. He made the team and was granted a scholarship. I was able to arrange a carpool for him to get to all practices and games. It brought me so much joy to see him be able to play and love soccer as much as I did as a kid.”
Adaptation is Learning
Today, with no sports or in-person instruction happening, Artman continues to remain as positive and thankful as she can. In fact, her life motto is “embrace the change.” Online education is one of those moments when she has been forced to adapt. “In education, things are changing all the time,” she explains. “Between curriculum, schedules, teaching partners…there are many things that we have to change. I decided to embrace the change rather than being afraid of it. Change is uncomfortable but it helps us grow.”
Before the pandemic hit, it would not be uncommon to see a group of kids swarming Artman in the hall or in the classroom for a hug. While that won’t happen for a while, she is still finding ways to build a bond with her class, because making connections virtually has been one of the hardest things to do so far.
“I really miss being at school with the kiddos,” she says. “I miss watching the lights go off as they grasp a new concept. I miss the way they embrace and encourage their classmates each day. One of the hardest things about online teaching is building direct relationships with kids. I’ve been focusing on social emotional learning each day and having discussions about their interests. One of the best things I’ve done to make connections is to have them give me a virtual high-five, hug, or fist-bump before we log off for the day. This allows me to address each kid individually and make a connection. I see smiles on everyone’s faces as they log off.”
Good teachers have a unique opportunity: they get to instill a love of knowledge in young, developing minds and inspire them to keep growing. It’s evident that Artman is doing exactly that.