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Special School District of St. Louis County
Finding Her Path
Experience Leads to Teaching Career

SSD teacher Michelle Shockley teaches in a classroom of seven students that receive SSD services at Claymont Elementary in the Parkway School District. But her pathway to teaching involved many stepping-stones along the way.

“I was an SSD paraprofessional for five years,” she said. “And I was also a substitute teacher in the District before that. It all really helped me know what I was getting into before becoming a teacher.”

But Shockley’s path wasn’t initially set toward teaching. Her interest first developed during her practicum while studying human services at St. Louis Community College-Meramec.

It was at that point that she realized working in the classroom might be the right fit for her. Building on her experience as a paraprofessional and a substitute teacher, she began taking evening classes at Missouri Baptist University, working toward a degree in both elementary and special education.

“It was great to be able to take classes while working as a paraprofessional,” Shockley said. “There is a lot of flexibility being a para. That is one of the major benefits to it."

“But the best thing about being a para is building that one-on-one relationship with students,” she said. “I just loved the relationship I got to build with them. And it really did make my job easier once I got to know the child. As a teacher now, I don’t get as much one-on-one time—and I miss that.”

Shockley said that her experience as a paraprofessional also helped her understand the time and skills involved in being a teacher, as well as how to work with parents and build relationships throughout school buildings.

Shockley now works with several paraprofessionals in her classroom. One of them, Laura Fornwalt, echoes many of the same positive comments about the paraprofessional position.

“If you’re thinking about going into education, you definitely need to get your foot in here and get a taste of it,” said Fornwalt, who also served as a substitute teacher. “Not one day is going to be the same.”

But no matter what positions Shockley or Fornwalt have held in the District, the focus on student success is paramount.

“There’s nothing better than seeing students make progress,” Shockley said. “I don’t know how to describe just how fulfilling that is.”
Michelle Shockley and students

Learn About Careers With SSD

SSD is always looking for dedicated individuals who believe in the District’s mission that all students can succeed.

Paraprofessionals, substitutes and other support staff positions require 60 college credit hours.  

Click here for more information about careers at SSD.

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12110 Clayton Rd, Town & Country, MO 63131  /  314.989.8100  /  314.989.8552 – 711 (Missouri Relay)

Special School District of St. Louis County (SSD) is a leader in providing special education services to students with disabilities and also provides a wide range of career and technical education programs.
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