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On the Child's Side: Melanie Shea, TEP'20

The Intellectual Contribution Award recipient for Teacher Education reflects on her time at HGSE and looks toward the future.
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Melanie Shea: "At the closing ceremony for our summer component, the TEP director, Dr. Villarreal, and program administrator, Susan Kandel, gave each TEP student a rose and 'Planning to Change the World: A Plan Book for Social Justice.'"

Photo courtesy of Melanie Shea

The Intellectual Contribution Award recognizes 13 Ed.M. students (one from each Ed.M. program) whose dedication to scholarship enhanced HGSE’s academic community and positively affected fellow students. Melanie Shea will be honored with the Intellectual Contribution Award for Teacher Education (TEP) at HGSE's Virtual Commencement on May 28.

Melanie SheaLecturer Christina Villarreal, faculty director of TEP, comments on Shea's selection: "Melanie's fierce appetite for justice, her deep commitment to nurturing beloved communities, her critically conscious lens and approach to her own and her peers' curricular and pedagogical development, and her warm personality have been key anchors for the TEP cohort community and journey this year. Among her numerous nominations, her peers described her as a 'source of inspiration who gracefully encourages us to constantly rethink' and who 'holds each individual and group accountable for the positions, while allowing for our growth,' and also a "leader who models her pedagogy wholeheartedly and simultaneously pushes us as intellectuals, while exuding an immense amount of love and care.'"

We spoke to Shea about her time at HGSE, her future plans, and what the new normal in education might look like:

What does the photo above mean to you?

Melanie Shea: At the closing ceremony for our summer component, the Teacher Education Program director, Dr. Villarreal, and program administrator, Susan Kandel, gave each TEP student a rose and Planning to Change the World: A Plan Book for Social Justice. A few years earlier, I’d bought a version of that same plan book for myself when I was first building up the courage to become a teacher. I was struggling during the summer component with feelings of inadequacy, and this gift was a loving reminder to keep working hard and remember why I’m here.

What are your post-HGSE plans?

MS: I’ll be joining the team at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School this fall as a history teacher! I was born and raised in Dorchester, and I’m excited to return to BPS as an educator.

What is something that you learned at HGSE that you will take with you throughout your career in education?

MS: “Always be on the child’s side” was Dr. Rubin’s favorite phrase in his class on adolescent development. Fittingly, this sentiment was at the heart of the HGSE classes that had the biggest impact on me, like Ethnic Studies and Education with Dr. Villarreal and Building Loving Spaces with Dr. Brion-Meisels. Always be on the child’s side, against oppressive institutions, against unjust rules, and even sometimes against yourself.

"'Business as usual' can be deeply harmful to our students even at the best of times. It’s an important reminder for me to keep my students’ humanity at the center of my practice. Especially now, I have to always be on the child’s side." – Melanie Shea

Is there any professor or class that significantly shaped your experience at the Ed School?

MS: Dr. V had a huge impact on my HGSE experience both as my program director and as my Ethnic Studies professor. She taught us that love doesn’t have to be soft; sometimes it looks like happiness, sometimes it looks like sorrow, sometimes it looks like rage. She never settles for anything less than our best because that’s what our students deserve. I’m so grateful to Dr. V for the way she constantly challenges and supports us as teachers and as learners.

How has the pandemic shifted your views of education? 

MS: Sadly, we are seeing some institutions respond to this crisis by attempting to maintain “business as usual” at all costs. Yet, “business as usual” can be deeply harmful to our students even at the best of times. It’s an important reminder for me to keep my students’ humanity at the center of my practice. Especially now, I have to always be on the child’s side.