Books · Education · Growing Up New Hampshire · Local

For the Love of Learning: Thank You Caryn Shamey for Your Lin-Wood Years

Caryn Shamey and Bob Nelson, Lin-Wood’s two retirees this year, in a recent interview with senior Oliver Dovholuk

Dear Caryn,

When I think about the role you have played in my history as a teacher here at Lin-Wood, along with that of our many colleagues, I am truly humbled by your wealth of experience, fortitude, and compassion.  You have been a highly educated and dedicated mother hen to more than just your students.  You yelled at us young mothers when we took on too much, told us we were crazy, wondered if we were on drugs from time to time, given how the job description as teacher has evolved over the years.  Here’s the thing, Caryn, you always, rightfully, worried first and foremost for our ability as educators to balance it all and for our students and the quality of education they were receiving, the quality of our curriculum, instruction, and assessment.  You were the teacher in our district who knew the most about the pieces of education which matter most.  The only other part of your job as teacher which mattered more than the how, why, and what we were teaching was the who part: your kiddos.

Your ability to balance the art of challenging students with understanding where they were coming from and where they were headed is unprecedented.  This maybe is due to the fact that you’ve already survived raising your own boys; or perhaps because you came to teaching after already having had other important roles in our society like that of counselor and social worker.  These skills, along with motherhood, have only ever enhanced your teaching.  You kept us afloat, those of us leaving and returning from our own maternity leaves, when completing work and grading papers at home was replaced with wild little children and basic survival on little sleep.  You modeled for the young men and women in your classrooms as much as you did for the rest of us in our small school what it means to demonstrate work ethic under duress, character without compromise, and humor at all costs.  Your family is so proud of you and the difference you have made in this world through the essential work in your classroom with young people.

Former student, Dalton Bentley, wrote recently in a thank you letter coming soon to you as a gift:

As my teacher, you taught me Civics, US History, and the “Theory of Knowledge”.  As my teacher, you taught me how to write, think critically, and question the status quo. As my teacher, you inspired me to think globally and act locally. As a teacher, you contributed to an educational foundation that is still working hard for me today. As my teacher you, you were more than a teacher.  You, Caryn, were also a mentor. In my time participating in Youth and Government I saw you as a powerful mentor and champion of young people. You took so many of us under your wing and challenged us to use what we had learned in school and life and turn it into a way to engage civically with our peers (AND have FUN!). Youth and Government was one of my favorite experiences in high school and it is because I felt empowered by you. As our leader, you made me feel, despite being a pubescent 14 year-old, that I had real power and agency. That while I wasn’t writing real bills, I could have been. That my perspective and intelligence could not be dismissed simply because of my age. That was powerful. That still is powerful. So Caryn, while I am PUMPED for you to have this time for yourself, I am sad the next generation of students won’t get you as a teacher and mentor and champion.

Nikki Donahue, also a former student, wished to share her reflection of you as well:

…As if presenting my ideas to a small committee at Youth and Government wasn’t stressful enough; the larger group was something I really feared. I remember standing up and shakily presenting our bill to the group. Afterwards, the world did not come crashing down and I had survived the ordeal. It may not have been the smoothest presentation, but it went relatively well overall and allowed me to feel a bit more confident when speaking in front of a group. It’s ironic now looking back on this memory for me since I now find myself giving presentations to groups of varying sizes regularly as a part of my career. I want to thank you so much for seeing the potential in me when I was a shy freshman and could not yet see it in myself... In addition, your classes and guidance helped me to feel knowledgeable and confident when speaking about politics or the political process. I feel I have a very clear understanding that it seems not all adults have. Recently, a bill was proposed in NH that would make the process of reporting sexual assaults more difficult for victims. When I learned of this proposed bill I felt outraged, but instead of keeping that inside or just posting my thoughts in a social media rant, I felt compelled to reach out to my local representative and share my feelings. Without the background knowledge that you provided me with in high school, I never would have felt comfortable doing such a thing… In fact, I thought of you just this week as I was at the NH state house and had to testify (in front of a lot of people!) in support of crisis centers getting more funding, and so I still thank you. 
We are just three of the many lives impacted by your presence here at Lin-Wood.  Thank you for your service to our community; for your levelheadedness and ability to prioritize the many goals our district sometimes (always actually) carried; for your patience in the face of adversity; and the compassion and spirit of activism you modeled for students and staff alike.  You will be missed, deeply, by all of us.  Have fun at your retirement party Friday night!
Love, Heather

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