About the series: On Main Hall Green With … is an opportunity to connect with faculty on things in and out of the classroom. We’re featuring a different Lawrence faculty member each time — same questions, different answers.
Stephanie Burdick-Shepherd, an associate professor of education, has been preparing Lawrence students for the world of teaching since joining the Education Studies faculty in 2015.
She has melded her expertise in philosophy and education as she’s taught courses ranging from Ethical Dilemmas in Education, to Philosophy of Childhood, to Foundations of Literacy in a Diverse Society. She leads the elementary teacher certification (preK-9) program and guides Lawrence’s student-teachers as they go into classrooms in the Appleton Area School District and elsewhere.
Education Studies provides insights into teaching and works alongside the teacher certification program
Burdick-Shepherd earned a bachelor’s degree from Transylvania University, a master’s from Montclair State University, and a M.Phil and Ph.D. from Columbia University.
We caught up with her to talk about interests in and out of the classroom.
In the classroom
Inside info: What’s one thing you want every student coming into your classes to know about you?
That I don’t have all the answers and I am not looking for perfection. I love it when students ask questions that I can’t answer right away or that sends us looking in a new direction as a class. When we allow real curiosity into our classrooms as instructors, when we make room for things like play and our vulnerable selves making mistakes, this is when the magic thing called learning happens.
Getting energized: What work have you done or will you be doing at Lawrence that gets you the most excited?
I had the opportunity to present a working paper at the annual Philosophy of Education national conference in March of 2022 with Michelle Johnson, a Lawrence alum and one of the first elementary student teachers to graduate from Lawrence. We are writing about the practices of hope but also the very real anger and frustration that educators experienced as part of their profession throughout the pandemic, and I can’t wait to see this writing published. The voice of K-12 educators is missing in U.S. educational policy changes of the 21st century, and to see former students challenging this makes me feel hopeful in this messy world.
Going places: Is there an example of somewhere your career has taken you (either a physical space or something more intellectual, emotional or spiritual) that took you by surprise?
Finland, specifically one of its most northern cities, Oulu. My second year here I traveled to Finnish universities and schools for 10 days. Even though I had read about it, it is something else entirely to see an entire country where K-12 teaching is a revered profession. I was sitting on the train one afternoon and there was this couple sitting across from me and they were grinning from ear to ear. I asked why they were so happy and the man said, “Oh, we just found out that she was accepted into university to be a teacher! She is amazing, the program is so competitive.” And it really is, students work really hard for many years to become educators there and the public absolutely respects the work. I am continuously reminding my family that if we get an opportunity, we will move there.
Out of the classroom
This or that: If you weren’t teaching for a living, what would you be doing?
I would probably be teaching in some way. I just told this story to the students in the course, A Call to Teach. I tried to run away from teaching as a profession for so many years in so many ways and I am always called back.
Right at home: Whether for work, relaxation or reflection, what’s your favorite spot on campus?
I love Bjorklunden! I especially love the woods on that part of the Door County campus. I have walked them in all seasons and the trees are never still, always speaking. I wouldn’t be surprised if a fairy or a small gnome popped out of one someday. And I really love the way everyone has to help clean and cook while there; it’s very Montessori. My daughters also think it is the best “hotel” in the entire world.
One book, one recording, one film: Name one of each that speaks to your soul? Or you would recommend to a friend? Or both?
Oh goodness, this is an impossible question for me, really. I read all the time, mostly fiction but in almost every genre. I have two kids and we are just coming out of this pandemic so both my music listening and movie watching has been oriented toward stuff the whole family loves. So, I’m just going to answer A Wrinkle in Time for all three answers (but seriously). A Wrinkle in Time was a book I loved as a child, and I find that adults get so much out of it when they re-read it or read it for the first time. The movie, A Wrinkle in Time, that came out a few years ago is magical and captures the precipice of adolescence within that question of good and evil in a really lovely way. And the soundtrack to the movie never fails to lift me up, especially Warrior by Chloe x Halle.