Emily Shaw posing with graduation cap with Ohio State trailblazers logo

Emily Shaw, ’21 BS, remembers the first time she stepped onto Ohio State’s campus as a high schooler from Port Clinton, Ohio, a Lake Erie town of roughly 5,000 people. It’s an impression she finds herself returning to again and again.

“I instantly fell in love with the campus,” Shaw said. “There's a certain feeling when you're on Ohio State's campus that just wants to make you better.” Shaw, now an eighth-grade science teacher in her hometown, has followed that maxim throughout her education and career: Make yourself and others better.

From Port Clinton to Columbus

Shaw came to Ohio State planning to study dietetics. Instead, at the end of her first year, she switched her major to the Middle Childhood Education program and changed the trajectory of her career.

“I knew I made the right choice,” Shaw said. “because the people that ended up being in my program, that I spent all my time with …  those were my people.”

Nichole Wiechman, a high school chemistry teacher at Port Clinton, was in the back of her mind.

“She was definitely the go-getter that I strive to be someday in my life,” Shaw said. “I always thought she was just an incredible person, and I've always really looked up to her.”

It takes one to know one. Shaw eventually would graduate magna cum laude even after spending a portion of her college time working remotely.

Shaw’s “why” — her reason to teach — began with teachers like Wiechman.

“Your ‘why’ evolves with time,” Shaw said. “At first, I feel like my ‘why’ was to be like teachers that I had in the past. But now I think my ‘why’ is to help as many people as I can (to) get better.”

Shaw’s instructors at Ohio State, including Middle Childhood Education program manager Conlee Ricketts, who directs preservice teacher’s field placements, and Associate Professor Tami Augustine, former director of accreditation, placement and licensure, helped her form her teaching philosophy, she said. She and her peers were held to high standards, a practice that she has translated into her classroom.

“As a teacher, it has allowed me to feel like it's okay to hold my students to higher expectations,” Shaw said. “And with the higher expectations, you get a better quality of work.”

It is not always easy, pushing students to be their best, but this does not deter Shaw.

“If you set the bar high every single time, whether it’s a behavior or an academic goal for them, they will rise,” Shaw said.

The college’s partnership with Columbus City Schools allowed her to hone that skill, Shaw said.

“A lot of my experiences in Columbus City …  shaped me into having better classroom management and knowing how to address so many ... situations,” Shaw said.

From Columbus to Port Clinton

When COVID-19 hit, Shaw’s home district of Port Clinton transitioned to hybrid learning, unlike many other districts in Ohio. So, Shaw chose to return home to Port Clinton for her student teaching. When a position teaching eighth-grade science serendipitously opened, Shaw applied.

“It gives me great pride to give back to the school district that genuinely formed who I am,” Shaw said. “I've lived in Port Clinton my entire life. I teach with two teachers now that I had when I was in eighth grade.”

Shaw works alongside Wiechman as a science teacher and coaches high school swimming and eighth-grade volleyball.

“That's really where the relationships get built, is outside of the classroom. ...” Shaw said. “Particularly in volleyball, I've gotten to build a really good relationship with a solid group of girls.”

Group of Ohio State educators at a conference
Emily Shaw and fellow educators from the Port Clinton City School District at the Schools to Watch National Conference.
From left to right: Front: Emily Shaw, Diane Dunn Back, Ashley Jeschelnig, Emily Stamm-Kolb, Jennifer Dackermann

To the future

In 2022, Shaw and four other Port Clinton educators were selected to present at the Schools to Watch National Conference in Washington, D.C. A program of the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grade Reform, it recognizes high-performing middle schools across the country.

“When I left that conference, I was specifically grateful for my teachers at Ohio State,” Shaw said. “I couldn't have been there, and I wouldn't have had that opportunity, if it wasn't for them.”

Now studying for her master’s in education at Concordia University in Chicago, Shaw hopes to one day return to Ohio State, possibly as an adviser or placement coordinator.

“People there make you the best version of yourself,” Shaw said. “And sometimes …  I really miss that.”

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