Teachers Grow Careers the “Wright” Way
By Paula M. Davenport
Unlike the majority of Idaho’s teachers, Shawn Tiegs entered the profession with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics – not education. But with his December graduation from the University of Idaho, he’s solidified his path to continued teaching success.
Tiegs, a full-time math and science teacher at Nezperce High School, earned a Master of Education from the College of Education. He and his nine classmates – also full-time teachers – were able to pursue their degrees together through the college’s Wright Fellowship program.
“The special part about being a Wright Fellow is that all the classes are face-to-face and small in size. You really feel like you are part of a group of excellent teachers who are on a journey together to improve themselves,” says Tiegs, who teaches at the high school he attended.
Designed with full-time teachers in mind, the competitive fellowship offers intensive classes over four semesters and covers nearly all incurred costs and fees.
“All of the Wright Fellows in our cohort were excellent teachers, and it was great to gain insight and wisdom from them. Our professors also became an integral part of the journey. They treated us as professionals and valued our insight while challenging our thoughts -- improving everyone,” says Tiegs.
Tiegs honed his teaching skills during his six years in the classroom, but he sprang at the chance to further improve his craft with the advanced teacher education fellowship at U-Idaho.
“I have always felt like I belonged as a teacher, but I now feel that I can rigorously evaluate best practices within my own classroom and that has empowered me to improve my teaching,” he says.
The experience wasn’t without its own challenges for the married father of five small children. Tiegs says he owes his wife, Dana, a debt of gratitude for tending the home fires while he attended classes in Moscow and did his homework assignments.
He says his rigorous schedule sometimes required him to sacrifice time with his family “But it went by really fast because all the classes were very interesting and rewarding.”
And while classes have ended, Tiegs says he’ll carry with him one of the Wright Fellowship’s finest positive outcomes.
“Getting to know the other Wright Fellows was the best thing. I have forged many bonds and new friendships and have gained a huge appreciation for the fact that teachers from all over the state of Idaho are going through very similar things despite our different circumstances,” Tiegs says.
Would he recommend it to peers?
“Absolutely,” he says. “It would be impossible to participate in the Wright Fellowship program and not improve yourself as a teacher and a human being. It was a great experience, great professors, great peers and a great school!”
What’s more, Tiegs is paying forward what he’s learned by mentoring U-Idaho student-teacher and Highland native Jed Pentzer this past semester. “I actually taught him biology when he was in 10th grade in my first year of teaching.”
It’s just one more example of how the Vandal family tree sprouts new branches every year.