Shayna Loebig is the kind of teacher principals salivate over: curiously intelligent, self-reflective, and fiercely compassionate. Becoming an intricate part of the fabric of her school is of great importance to Shayna, and sheâs wasted no time in doing so.
Approaching a third-year of teaching at Cesar Chavez High School in Houston ISD, Shayna has built a portfolio of projects only a teacher deeply committed to her school would pursue. After completing an undergraduate degree in physics as Louisiana State University, Shayna decided to pursue research and attended a PhD program at Houstonâs Baylor College of Medicine. Soon after, she decided to shorten her studies and teach, and while writing her masterâs thesis in biochemistry, Shayna began her first month as a ninth grade science teacher in August of 2009. Shayna recalled her first months of teaching: âI wound up immediately loving [teaching] and sort of regretting I hadnât done it sooner.â
At Chavez, Shayna works as a team member of the Achieve Academy, a small cohort of students entering ninth grade who are struggling with academic or behavioral challenges, and who may benefit from a more intimate learning environment. This year she will be teaching biology, but thatâs not where Shaynaâs responsibilities stop.
In 2009, Shayna started the Women Empowerment Club after observing a need among Chavezâs young women for a source of support in navigating the many challenges they face on a daily basis. In past years, Shayna has focused on developing the girlsâ self-esteem and leadership potential, but this one will be different: â I want to focus on the development of others, so weâre going to raise money to provide books to other schools or help build other schools. Weâll think, âHow can we help the people who really need it?ââ
Shayna has played an instrumental role in developing leadership qualities in her Achieve students as well. Within the academy, she has created the Boys Assembly, a program that provides weekly mentor and speaker visits for its young men, and formed a partnership with the Womenâs Resource of Greater Houstonâs Project LEAD to facilitate its young womenâs financial literacy.
Shaynaâs studies in the Business Certificate program have been whole-heartedly encouraged by her principal: â[The program] is 5-9 on Thursdays, and then all day on Fridays and Saturdays once a month, so you only miss work on FridayâŚ and my principal gave me professional development hours so I didnât have to take off any time. Iâm so lucky, heâs really supportive of the program.â
REEP has been a highly engaging, challenging experience for Shayna, something she looked for when deciding to attend: âOnce I talked to [Erika Medrado] in the interviews, I knew I wanted to be there. I felt like with a lot of other courses I looked at, I could just read a book, but I really wanted to make myself better.â Trust and collaboration are critical elements in addressing many of the complex challenges facing educators, and Shayna has found a network of like-minded, motivated colleagues at REEP: ââŚthe people are so nice, and everyone had the exact same values and goals for education, and you donât necessarily find that everywhere. Itâs been an environment where thereâs a lot of trust. I donât feel strange asking for helpâŚ and I feel like we have our own strengths and can all contribute to the team.â
Shaynaâs looking forward to her second year, although she wishes the courses occurred more frequently, as they change from meeting once per month during the first year to meeting once every other month during the second. Opportunities to learn from the Rice MBA faculty are something Shaynaâs particularly fond of, and she offered an example of a typical class experience: âThe teachers are so phenomenal, sometimes I find myself taking down notes on how theyâre teaching!â