Colin Shebar, Mount Greylock’s new vice principal, sat down with the Echo virtually to discuss his background, the best spots for hiking in Berkshire County, and his passion for teaching.
E: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Colin Shebar: I came here from teaching in Franklin, Massachusetts. I was teaching there for five years, middle school social studies, seventh grade specifically. Massachusetts born and raised, I got my undergraduate degree from UMass Amherst, and then my Master’s in Secondary Education from AIC, American International College in Springfield. And then most recently, I got my Masters in School Administration through Endicott.
E: What brought you into teaching/school jobs?
CS: It’s something I always knew I wanted to do even before formally working in schools. When I was in eighth grade, I went through a local babysitting class to get certified as a babysitter in my area, so I could do that and was involved in child care that way. Working with kids is just something I’ve always enjoyed doing, and then when I realized I could turn that into a career, I gravitated to it immediately. I basically got paid to read and talk to other people about things I was reading, and then help them understand new things. I know this is a cliche, and I’m sure many teachers have even said this to you, but we honestly do learn from our students the way that students learn from teachers. If you can make your classroom a dialogue between you and your students, then everybody gets something out of it, even the teacher in the room. So it was just so rewarding, so fulfilling, and I had fun with it. You never know what you’re going to get when you walk into a classroom. Every single day is going to be different. Part of that’s based on the students you have in front of you and part of that’s just simply based on the fact that we’re human beings and I can wake up one day energetic and excited and wake up the next day a little groggy, tired and grumpy and I still have to go to the classroom. So every student brings that same thing with them. And that means that it was always different. It was always new. And it always presented challenges that I really enjoyed facing and then helping work through with my students. There’s not an aspect of working in schools that I don’t love.
E: What’s your favorite thing about working with middle/high school students?
CS: You can see learning happening. And that may sound strange in the abstract, but I’ve spent some time, especially at the after school program I worked at, with elementary age students. And I feel like they come and go from ideas and activities so quickly that when they learn something new, they’re just like, ‘oh cool,’ and then they move on. Whereas with my middle school students and with my high school students, you could watch the moment of understanding on their faces. And because they’re older, because they’re more mature, there’s something about gaining that understanding from that moment you see on their face, it becomes a moment of pride, a moment of joy, and that is even more incredible than seeing the learning happening in the first place.
E: What’s your favorite part of Mt. Greylock? Has anything stood out so far?
CS: I am really excited for once we get up and running with students because clearly, I’m here for you. I enjoy my colleagues, I’m ready to work and collaborate with them, which is what I’d say as of now is what I’ve enjoyed the most about Greylock. We find ourselves in such an unprecedented time, and the faculty and staff here have come together and are willing to work together to problem solve and come up with creative solutions to these challenges. We’re facing something no one’s ever dealt with before. We’re basically designing a brand new way of going to school. The positivity that this group of people have brought to that process has blown me away. I am really excited for us to get up and going with the kids because all the teachers are here for you.
E: What are some of your favorite teaching techniques?
CS: Hands on. I was a social studies teacher, and, especially at the start of my career, I had a lot of older teachers and mentors who kind of taught in that classic way of going over timelines, and talking about dates. That didn’t resonate with me, that wasn’t how I wanted to approach it. I’ve always been so inspired and so enthusiastic about looking backwards to better understand how we move forwards. I feel like that’s something that you can get more out of, if you do it hands on. So running simulations in my classroom was something I’ve loved to do, getting the kids up and moving around, engaging with an idea, and not just reading about it. If I could get them to do recreations or make some videos, that was always really fun. The more hands on I could be, especially in a class like history or social studies, the better the lesson usually ended up going.
E: What are some of your hobbies outside of school?
CS: Well, that’s actually one of the reasons why I came to Greylock in the first place. I love outdoor activities. I’ve always been an avid hiker; I own my own harness and all the setups necessary to walk into the woods, find a rock wall and make some rock climbing happen. That’s the kind of thing that I can do around here. I’ve already found a couple of great spots to go hiking. The natural state of this area of Massachusetts is one of the big draws for me when I was looking for new jobs. Obviously with the weather being what it is, you can’t do everything outside all the time. I’m actually really big into board games. I love playing board games of all kinds. My friends, my family, we always get together, and these days it’s more digital, obviously. Finding ways to just have that fun, friendly interaction, even on a rainy day, has always been really important to me.
E: What are you most excited to do when the world has reopened?
CS: There’s something about just sitting in a restaurant, surrounded by life and society that I’ve been missing. It’s not anything I realized I was missing until it was no longer a factor in my life. We as humans are really social creatures. We really rely on that social interaction and many of us have struggled through this time period because of that. There are all sorts of solutions, but it’s less authentic to do it over a little box in the computer screen and to hear things coming out of a speaker instead of being able to actually see each other and be in an environment and share an experience with each other. So even as simple as I’ve met with my friends a couple of times on zoom over the last couple of months, and we’ve had our own like “dinner parties” through zoom. I’m looking to get out there and do all those little things that I didn’t realize were important to my life until they were no longer in my life.
E: Any last thoughts?
CS: Like I said, I’m excited for the area. So any suggestions about where to hike or climb, please send my way. In the last couple years, I’ve gotten into golf. So that as well, if anyone has a suggestion on a golf course, I’ve seen plenty of them around here, that would be great. Past that, I am sure this is also one of those cliche things, but most of the time it’s said because we mean it. I’m sure some of the people reading this don’t necessarily want to know about what I used to do or what I do in life, but I’m your assistant principal now. The last message I want to get out to students is really just the idea that in this role, my job is to be a support to all of you and be a support to all of the teachers and staff in this building. I will be a connection between some of the bigger picture stuff that happens here in administration and the day to day lives that all of you live and have to go through because the more connection there is, the more students understand why things happen in the building, and the more that building becomes a community. My goal here is to do whatever I can, in my part as the assistant principal in this building, to help us foster the best, most positive community in this school that we can, so everyone feels welcome and comfortable here, and has opportunities for success.