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NWPE's Shawna Exline Celebrates School Choice with Personal Speech to Idaho's SCW Rally
posted by: Cindy Omlin | January 26, 2016, 05:07 AM   

NWPE member and West Ada 2016 Teacher of the Year Shawna Exline addresses the Idaho School Choice Rally today!  This exceptional educator not only appreciates school choices that best meet students' needs, including her own children, she appreciates how school choice has advanced her career and how proud she is to have a professional choice as a member of Northwest Professional Educators.  Read on for her speech on the capitol steps in Boise, ID, and as well as her guest column in the Idaho Statesman. 

shawna exline croppedWe are here today to celebrate school choice. I am a teacher at a school of choice, the Idaho Fine Arts Academy, and my middle school students, principal, fellow teachers, and school community are here with me today to celebrate choice. I am proud to say that my school district, West Ada, is a believer in school choice as we have over 30 schools of choice within our district. This means that students, parents, and educators have the opportunity to choose an educational setting that meets their interests and supports their academic needs.

How has school choice made a difference in my life? Early in my teaching career my husband and I moved to Los Angeles, California, so he could pursue his master’s in professional writing at USC. I was looking for work in Los Angeles and was advised to find a position in an independent school. I found a job teaching at a private school. I had a choice and made a choice to find a school that was a fit for my teaching expertise and my personal background.

My children needed a school of choice. Both are artistic and their needs were met mostly in summer arts programs. When my son was in fifth and daughter in third grade, the West Ada school district opened the magnet arts school, Christine Donnell School of the Arts. This school provided them with amazing art opportunities within the school day and also the flexibility to meet my son’s musical needs.

shawna exline still from speech video scw 2016My son began playing the trumpet at the age of six. The public school system allowed him to begin playing with the middle school band in elementary and with the high school band in middle school. In high school it became more difficult to meet his musical needs within the public school day. It was then that we began to look at other school choices. We found a private school in our area that provided him with a strong academic education but allowed his music to be the focus. He thrived at ArtsWest his junior and senior year and went on to secure a full ride scholarship to the University of Miami. He graduates this year with a degree in trumpet performance and is applying to graduate schools currently. His goal is to be a member of a symphonic orchestra and both public and private schools of choice were an important part of his educational experience.

This brings me back to why I am standing before you today. I was so energized by my children’s experience at Christine Donnell School of the Arts that I returned to the classroom and became the school’s 8th grade teacher. I had the opportunity to teach not only both my children, but work with amazing students, families and educators who embraced the arts. School choice has advanced my career. I love teaching in a school that ignites my passion of the arts. I am proud to be a “school of choice teacher” and I’m proud to be a member of Northwest Professional Educators, a professional association that supports educators in all settings here in Idaho.

The school, ArtsWest, is now the Idaho Fine Arts Academy, a performing arts public school.  Students are at the center of school choice and our goal as educators is to provide them with an excellent education. Through grit, creativity, collaboration, and innovation we will lead the way to educational opportunities that can now only be imagined. Thank you.
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