Jan Shoemaker Teaching for a better world

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A born educator, Jan Shoemaker has been teaching for 27 years. She currently teaches at Haslett High School, receiving her English degree from Michigan State University and her Master of Fine Arts from Ashland University. Given her background, she was never surprise that her path led her to teaching.

“I was one of those bossy kids,” Shoemaker said. “On rainy days, [I] lined up kids, made them sit in desks and we played ‘school.’ I was always the teacher.”

After college, Shoemaker spent years traveling and reading as much as possible, eventually deciding to pursue teaching.

“I just wanted to share the beautiful things I was reading with somebody else,” Shoemaker said. “You just can’t keep that stuff to yourself, not all that good poetry.”

Today, Shoemaker imparts this passion and joy to her students, and she curates a curriculum which will inspire and excite them.

“I think when you engage students and draw them in and give them a chance to speak and respond to what we’re reading and what we’re discussing, then they’ll be more invested in the joy of it,” said Shoemaker.

Shoemaker engages her students in discussions beyond literature. She created a World Religions class 15 years ago at her school with the belief that students needed this class with a global lens.

“We’ve got to understand each other and religious beliefs are central to people’s perception and the way they approach living,” Shoemaker said. “We need to know how to talk to each other […] and know where our values overlap, what we have in common, as well as what we disagree about.”

Shoemaker becomes animated with enthusiasm as she discusses her book, “Flesh and Stones: Field Notes from a Finite World.” The book was published in 2016 and is available for purchase on Amazon.

“It’s about teaching, hiking, cooking and travel and it’s about losing my mom to Alzheimer’s disease,” Shoemaker said. “So, it has funny bits in it and it has, obviously, sad bits in it. It’s about not always being the person I hoped I’d be. It’s about failing, really. In some ways, it’s easier to sympathize with other people failing and helping them through it, than it is to fail yourself.”

Her book offers lessons that are helpful to anyone.

“One thing I like to tell my students and friends is actually when they fall down, I tell them to try to practice resurrection. When you get knocked down you’ve got to get back up. You need to figure out how to do it,” Shoemaker said.

Besides teaching and writing, Shoemaker channels her passion into volunteering.

“After the last election, I was in despair and it suddenly seemed like everything I cared about needed to be protected” Shoemaker said. “Every civil right, every library, every museum.”

Eager to be active, Shoemaker joined the ACLU and donated to Planned Parenthood.

Shoemaker puts her beliefs into action, which is clear on both the front lines and the classroom. She strives to break barriers between students and foster an open-minded environment.


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