• February 24, 2020

AN APPLE FOR THE TEACHER – Northfield Community School: Barb Shenkus - Ocean City Sentinel: News

AN APPLE FOR THE TEACHER – Northfield Community School: Barb Shenkus

You can’t navigate the world without support; OK to ask for help

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Posted: Thursday, January 2, 2020 2:52 pm

NORTHFIELD — Humility and cooperation are the two attributes that best describe Barb Shenkus, a fourth-grade teacher at Northfield Community School. 

In fact, she was so thorough in giving credit to the team that others’ words may best be used to describe what is wonderful about her teaching style.

“There are many attributes that make Barb Shenkus a remarkable teacher, but the attention she places on her students’ social and emotional well-being is what makes her extraordinary,” Board of Education member Stephanie Woodhouse said. “Barb has a unique ability to seamlessly combine four of the things that children need to thrive — freedom, choice, safety and fun — to create a dynamic and engaging learning environment. And while her students’ education is clearly a priority for her, Barb makes it known that how they treat the people around them is of equal importance to her. My children grew academically with Mrs. Shenkus, but more importantly they became better people.”

Shenkus, 44, is a Northfield resident who is in her 10th year at the school, which educates children in kindergarten through eighth grade. She grew up in Ocean City and is a 1993 graduate of Ocean City High School.

Prior to teaching at NCS, she was probation officer for eight years and then worked at St. Augustine Regional School in Ocean City until it closed. She and her husband, attorney Eric Shenkus, have three children: Emily, Tommy and Sarah.

She attended Georgian Court University for her undergraduate degree and earned her teaching certification in elementary education at Stockton University.

“Barbara Shenkus … is consistently presenting her students with personal challenges in order to bring out their best — academically, socially and emotionally,” primary and elementary school Principal Maureen Vaccaro said. “While naturally providing her students with strong academic programs in math, language arts and all content, Barb is a model for having a connection with her students and parents and having the respect of her peers. Barb, the fourth grade team leader, feels strongly about the social emotional development of her students, and provides numerous creative programs for students such as: Giving Thanks Chain, Kindness Kidmittee, Caught Being Good recognitions, charity collections for community initiatives, student recognition of parent volunteers, student involvement with hospice and adult senior citizens, Spread Love Hearts. Mrs. Shenkus works daily to successfully and creatively enhance her classroom instruction and curriculum, while nurturing loving and caring little citizens.”  

Other things Vaccaro mentioned include the Grade 4 Tech Team cart honoring student birthdays and Teachers of the Month, staff inspirational posters, College Week activities, STEAM Fair interactive stations, Kindness Kidmittee monthly kindness video with goals shared with all classrooms, and monthly Kindness Kidmittee calendar for family daily acts of kindness. 

“The Kindness Kidmittee is in place to reinforce to our students that kindness can be promoted by small actions and that the smallest actions can make the biggest difference,” Shenkus said. “We build on the feeling of community. My role is to organize activities and to help with ideas. This year has been the most active by far. We want the students to take ownership of the activities so we combine their ideas with existing programs.”

Shenkus also runs the school’s Renaissance activities, which she called “more of a student and staff initiative to keep a little bit of fun in elementary school.” She said they hold cookie contests, an ugly sweater contest, a sock exchange in which students pick a name and fill a sock with items and other activities.

“I really feel like anything we do, we are always relying on each other. There is always someone helping you do something,” she said. “I help out with it but it’s definitely a team effort.”

She said her role in the Renaissance activities started as a way to encourage positive and fun teacher events but quickly rolled into entire school activities. 

“We do a monthly initiative where they come up with a kindness goal. What they do from there is develop it to pass it through the school,” she said, noting they put together a video to let other students know about the goals. “The focus for January will be to give compliments.”

She said the two programs work hand in hand, much as the teachers and staff do.

“In that way, Kindness Kidmittee and Renaissance have worked seamlessly together,” she said, again deflecting credit from herself. “While I may take the lead role for organizing, everything that happens could never be done without the help of others. Honestly, that’s one of the lessons I think is important for the students to see as well. You can’t navigate the world without a little support and it’s OK to ask for help. Promoting kindness, good choices, manners, lifting and supporting each other, and simply being aware of others. I’d like to think I carry those philosophies into my classroom and push them to be aware of others.” 

“Barb Shenkus is undoubtedly one of the most kindhearted and generous people I know. She puts her whole heart into everything she does, not only in school but also in our community. She makes such a difference at NCS and both students and her fellow peers are lucky to have her in our lives,” colleague Megan Hoti said.

“I’d like to think I identify a strength in each student and draw it out somehow, just being mindful of the fact that life isn’t easy for the kids — even though they are 9 or 10 — trying to be aware and instill a feeling in the classroom that they can be safe in, have fun and be a kid, but at the end of the day be productive,” Shenkus said.

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