Camelot Teacher Profile: Shani Hawkins
After working as an educator for eleven years, Shani Hawkins has taught every where from Chicago Public Schools, to home school, to charter schools, and now we are excited to have her at Camelot. At Camelot’s newest transitional school, Camelot Academy of Chicago, Ms. Hawkins serves as an English teacher for grades 8-12. This is her first time teaching at a Camelot school, but she enjoys getting the students in her hometown back on track. Different from traditional school models, students at transitional schools are placed there by the district for a limited amount of time. From there, our teachers are tasked with getting them back on track and providing them the necessary tools so they won’t get into the same trouble again.
Camelot Academy is in its first year and this is your first year teaching at a Camelot school, so how’s it going?
It’s an exciting time. All of us are new to Camelot, and we are all learning and growing together.
Compared to your other positions teaching at public and charter schools, how would you describe your Camelot experience?
Our student body has a high turnaround; few are placed for the entire year. The most rewarding thing that I see out of the Camelot model is at first kids don’t want to be here because we have strict rules and protocols that they have to follow. But, as soon as those kids get the paperwork saying that they can return to their home school, none of them want to leave. It says something to me about the program; it shows that we are doing something right. It shows that we are giving them the right attention they need both academically and socially.
Our job is like the intensive care unit. We get them stabilized and then they have to maintain once they leave the door.
How do the Camelot norms contribute to student’s success?
Under the Camelot model, as a staff we are consistent with implementing the norms. So, they see that no one is intentionally trying to hurt them or disrespect them. Education is just as sacred as their safety and behavior. I think this consistency is what helps students accept what we’re doing here at Camelot.
Since you’re only with your students for a short time period, how do you get them to trust and respect you so they can be successful in your classroom?
I try to engage with them on a personal level, I’m an intuitive type of person so it may be cracking a joke at a certain time or probing a little bit into their personal life, I think that helps too.
I’ve also stepped away from the classical literature, and introduced books that they can relate to. From there, I’m still able to pull out my teacher hat and teach literary skills. Finding material that they can relate to and finding something personal that I can connect with them helps them to build that respect needed to be successful in the classroom.
What lesson really stands out as something that you might want to do next year?
I’m really having fun right now teaching Lord of the Flies. One class did a project where they had to create their own island and they had to come up with their own rules and government. It’s going to be interesting to see how they gravitate towards the theme of struggling with good and evil and what it’s like to have one of your peers be an authority. I think it might be my favorite unit, it might be the exercise that my young men especially, are able to really connect with.
What is your favorite part about working at a Camelot school?
I like the small school feel that we have here. Even when situations are difficult we have such a good support system, from the teachers to the behavioral staff, to the janitors. It’s phenomenal.
Camelot is a company where I feel like I would want to go into a leadership position and I never ever felt that way working in a public school or charter school.