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CHCCS dual-language teacher nominated for national award after student test growth

Photo Courtesy of Shaunna Jeffries.

The district announced earlier this week that Shaunna Jeffries, a 4th grade teacher at Frank Porter Graham Elementary School in Chapel Hill, was nominated for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

The awards are the highest honors bestowed by the U.S. government for K-12 STEM teaching. Recipients receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation, as well as a signed certificate from the President. Each year, up to 110 teachers can be recognized.

This school year, Jeffries’ homeroom showed the school's highest growth in scores in math and science from their beginning-of-year to middle-of-year tests. Because of this growth, Frank Porter Graham Elementary School's principal, Karen Galassi-Ferrer, nominated Jeffries for the award.

“Because my classroom that I teach math to had the highest growth in the entire school, she nominated me for the presidential award because she had never seen a second-year teacher do anything like that,” Jeffries said.

Jeffries said being nominated for this award means the world to her. She said it makes her feel good to know that her students are making such progress.

Stephanie Jeffries — Shaunna Jeffries’ sister and 4th grade Learning Environment for Advanced Programming teacher at Seawell Elementary School — said Shaunna is loved by the staff, students and principals at her school, making her a huge part of her school community. She said Shaunna is a natural leader.

"She's able to just jump in and, where she sees something that needs to be done, takes initiative," she said. "She's a great overachiever.”

Shaunna and Stephanie have worked together at several places, including Sonic, Walmart and Carrboro Elementary School. Shaunna was encouraged to begin working at Carrboro Elementary with her sister by Emily Bivins, who was the principal of Carrboro Elementary at the time, because she tutored Bivins' children in Spanish.

Shaunna then went on to teach at Frank Porter Graham Elementary, a dual-language school, because she participated in a dual-language program as a child.

At Frank Porter Graham Elementary, students are taught half of their days in Spanish and half in English. Shaunna, although fluent in Spanish, teaches the English portion of her students’ days.

“Shaunna is one of the smartest people that I know, so I just love that she's able to mold little minds,” Stephanie said.

Shaunna was a teaching assistant for 12 years before becoming a teacher. Mark Bailey, the director of recruitment and employee engagement at Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, said the pathway of going from a teaching assistant to pursuing a continued education and becoming a teacher is effective.

“Shaunna, to me, is just a shining example of that pathway and how effective people can be as they go through it, and what a great impact they have on kids,” Bailey said.

Kat Rangel, the assistant principal at Frank Porter Graham Elementary, said Shaunna has a natural way with students. Rangel said Shaunna pushes her students to meet reachable goals.

“She is amazing," Rangel said. "She's in her second year teaching, but you would never know it." 


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