Extra Credit Union is an organization devoted to serving the financial needs of local schools and has done so since its formation in 1954. For many years, Extra Credit Union has successfully provided financial education programs in local K-12 schools; scholarships to graduating seniors; and given teachers many resources and services.
With this in mind, we are featuring a different teacher every month. Our “teacher feature” brings attention to a teacher in our community who goes above and beyond and whose passion for their work truly shows. This month, we feature Sharon Sylvester, science and robotics/technology teacher at Chatterton Middle School.
ECU: How long have you been teaching?
Sharon: I have been teaching for 26 years. I substitute taught in the Warren Woods and Center Line school districts for five years (while my children were young) and I have been in the Fitzgerald Public Schools district for 21 years.
ECU: What subject do you teach?
Sharon: I teach seventh-grade science and sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade robotics/technology classes.
ECU: Why did you become a teacher?
Sharon: I had a 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Carolyn Connell that inspired me. She was a wonderful role model for me then, and last year, I found her through an internet search and contacted her. We continue to stay in touch. Mrs. Connell is an amazing woman of strength and integrity and remains that same, strong role model in my life today!
I also became a teacher for the children; I know I can make a difference in their lives. Maybe I cannot touch the lives of all of my students, but the few I do connect with, I pray our connection is just as strong and inspirational for them as my relationship with Mrs. Connell was/is for me.
ECU: What is your favorite thing about teaching?
Sharon: My favorite thing about teaching are those “ah-ha” moments a student experiences. When they finally understand a concept you have been feverishly trying to teach them, but they just are not grasping the concept. Then, one day, they finally get it! That is an amazing feeling as a teacher.
I like teaching my students new things. For example, learning how to program robots and watching their reaction as the robot performs the command they told it to do. When I hear the “Wow! This is so cool!” comments from my students, they make me smile. That is why teaching robotics and technology is so fun for me, because everything I teach them is so new. From learning about Mag Lev vehicles, constructing their own car and racing them down the magnetic track, to testing the aerodynamics of their Mag Lev car in our wind tunnel, to building bridges, robots and now learning CAD and printing objects on a 3D printer—thanks to the grant awarded to us from Extra Credit Union. These are all new concepts to the students that I am able to teach to them.
ECU: How old are you?
Sharon: Old? I am not old! Haha, I am 58.
ECU: Are you married? Kids? If so, how many, ages, names, etc.
Sharon: I raised two of the most awesome children in the world. My daughter Ashley—who is beautiful, intelligent, kind, loving, generous, hardworking and very adventurous—is 29 years old and works as a speech and language pathologist in the Birmingham Public School District. She has a way of connecting with children, and she knows her craft very well. Those traits combined award her the favor of being a very effective, dynamic and successful speech and language pathologist. Birmingham Public Schools is fortunate to have Ashley as part of their team. Ashley not only earned her Masters Degree by the age of 25, she also has taught in the Hawaiian Public Schools for a year and a half as a speech and language teacher. Ashley is married to her wonderful husband Mark, who together, share an exciting and adventurous life.
My son Kyle is my hero in life. When Kyle was 3 months old, he was diagnosed with hydrocephalus, aqua-ductal stenosis, a condition that caused him to need to have a shunt placed into the ventricles of his brain to drain the excess fluid that was building up in his head. If this condition went unchecked, it would result in death. Kyle’s first shunt worked for a while, then Kyle experienced cluster malfunctions whereby his shunt kept malfunctioning. The worst of the malfunctioning occurred when he was just entering seventh grade at 11 years old.
Kyle was admitted into Children’s Hospital mid Sept. during that time Kyle had to endure over 87 neurosurgeries (yup, that’s brain surgery). He coded twice while he was there and had two grand mal seizures. I am blessed that God has a purpose for Kyle’s life and he is still with us today! Kyle is now 26 years old and he is working hard to become a radiology technician. Kyle is often slowed down on his academic progress, because after all of his previous surgeries, he suffers from acute, chronic migraine headaches. Kyle has a deep compassion for people, especially those admitted into the hospital.
Working as a patient porter for Henry Ford Hospital, Kyle extends warmth, patience and compassion for the patients that are under his care. Kyle works extremely hard and he is very diligent about going above and beyond while working at the task at hand. I know Kyle is going to become a very successful radiology technician because of his gentleness and his understanding of the medical process from the patient’s point of view, as well.
ECU: What do you like to do in your spare time? Any hobbies?
Sharon: My favorite thing to do in my spare time is to spend it with my children, my family and my friends; I enjoy the good times we spend together and the many laughs we share. I like to spend time at our cottage, enjoying family and friends out there. I have many hobbies, some of which are: anything technology related, robotics, photography, making stained glass creations, tinkering and making fun things for my classroom, (such as a cloud I made that lights up and is interactive with sounds and music, my giant light up brain, and a giant-sized Operation game board I made as a gift for the kids to play …our school theme this year is about board games). I love taking my bike for long (25-30 mile) bike rides, I just got a paddle board this past summer, so that has become a new interest of mine. And last, but not least, I really enjoy spending time with my three Cava chon dogs: Odie, Quinn and Abby.
ECU: What school activities are you involved in?
Sharon: I used to coach softball. I presently coach two FIRST FTC robotics teams, plus I help when I can with the high school’s FRC robotics team. I established an honor society at the middle school, and as a result, I co-sponsor the Chatterton Junior Honor Society with my friend and co- worker, Emily Petroske. I also run the yearbook club.
ECU: Do you have any specific goals for the school year?
Sharon: My goals for this year are to help my students’ understanding of science concepts and help them with their test-taking skills so they can do well on their classroom assessments, as well as with the M-STEP state assessment.
And since our robotics team is going to super regionals in Iowa this March, another goal is to revise our robot and perform to the best of our ability at that competition level, while sharing goods times and making positive memories for the students on the team.
ECU: What do you hope your students take away from your class at the end of the semester/school year?
Sharon: What I hope my students take away from my classroom is a wealth of knowledge in the subject area in which I taught them. I also hope my students walk away with a strong work ethic, and are inspired to treat each other with kindness, understanding and compassion. I hope my students walk away with a strong moral conviction to always do what is right, and not to run with the crowd for the sake of popularity. I hope my students walk out of my classroom feeling good about themselves and what they accomplished during our time together. I also hope my students walk out of my classroom with the hope and the knowledge to pursue their dreams and aspirations, knowing they can achieve them with hard work and diligence.
ECU: Anything you’d like to add?
Sharon: I was named the teacher of the year for the 2014-2015 school year at Chatterton Middle School. I then went on to become the Macomb County Teacher of the year that year, as well.
My goals as a teacher:
TEACH: The principal goals many teachers set for themselves is to be the best educator they can be. I am no different. There is something extremely gratifying about imparting information to your students and working with them to ensure they understand, not only concepts, but practical applications as well. I hope I am the best teacher I can be for my students.
INSPIRE: I seek to inspire students in all aspects of their lives, and for me, my greatest goal is to be a role model. Someone who inspires and encourages students to strive for greatness, and teach them through experience and commitment how to realize their full potential to become the best they can be.
LEARN – GROW – EVOLVE: I want to learn something new every day. I learn a great deal about myself through teaching. Teaching requires you to step out of your comfort zone in a way you may have never done before, and through this you learn about yourself as a teacher and as a person. The lessons they learn from their own students are the ones that make the job so fulfilling. My students bring a lot of their own life experiences to the classroom, and some of the things they have to say have enlightened me in ways I never expected. The last thing I ever want to become is a stagnant teacher.
CHANGE – When a teacher says their goal is to “make a difference”, they not only want to change the lives of their students, they want to change the face of education. This is my goal not only for a semester or a year, but for my career and beyond.
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