Springfield Public Schools are celebrating the 2020 finalists for the district’s Teacher of the Year award. Missouri State University’s College of Education congratulates nominees Cary Sikes, Michelle Slominsky and Shannon Bossing—all alumni.
The college caught up with each of them to learn more about their experiences at Missouri State and their years as educators. The Teacher of the Year and other finalists will be recognized at an annual banquet in August by the Foundation for Springfield Public Schools.
What grade and subject do you teach?
Michelle Slominsky: I taught kindergarten my first two years of teaching, moved to first grade for seven years, and have been back with kindergarteners ever since. I teach all core subjects at Sequiota Elementary School.
Shannon Bossing: I currently teach fourth grade at David Harrison Elementary, but I’ve also taught grades one, two and three, as well as K-12 English as a second language, K-12 gifted learners, K-6 computers, and I was an assistant principal for two years.
During my second year in administration, I was diagnosed and treated for cancer, which led to a re–evaluation of my life, including my career path, and I decided to return to my passion as a classroom teacher.
I teach all core subjects, though I absolutely love teaching reading and writing.
Cary Sikes: I teach fourth grade — all four core subjects — at Wanda Gray Elementary.
When did you graduate from Missouri State University, and how long have you been a teacher?
Slominsky: I first came to Missouri State in 1998 to pursue a degree in early childhood education. I was so lucky to have amazing instructors that helped me achieve this goal in December 2002.
I met my husband at Missouri State, and we decided to make Springfield our home.
I returned to the school and completed my master’s in reading in 2007. Spring 2018, I completed my specialist in education, teacher leadership degree at — you guessed it — Missouri State University. I love MSU! I have taught in and around Springfield for 17 years.
Bossing: I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in education in December of 1994. After earning my first master’s degree from Drury in 1998, I returned to MSU for my second master’s degree and graduated in 2010. I’m finishing my 24th year in education.
Sikes: I graduated in May 1993. I’ve taught for 27 years.
What did you enjoy most during your time at Missouri State?
Slominky: While meeting my husband is the highlight of my undergraduate time at Missouri State, I can honestly say that I had such a positive experience in all my courses.
I was able to do lots of observations at Greenwood Laboratory School, and I spent a lot of time working at the University Childcare Center in my free time.
I was a University Ambassador and enjoyed giving tours to prospective students and their families. I was also involved in Greek Life, serving as the membership chair for Delta Zeta.
Bossing: I really enjoyed my children’s literature class. I am not a fan of the fantasy genre, but my professor assigned “A Wrinkle in Time,” and I fell in love with that book. I also enjoyed my methods classes.
Sikes: Making lifelong friends and the educational experiences that prepared me to be a teacher.
Why did you choose to be a teacher?
Slominsky: I truly believe that teaching is my calling in life. I was so lucky to have amazing teachers in elementary school. While other kids would run to play outside at recess, I would beg my teachers to let me stay inside and do ‘teacher work.’
My fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Grieves, really stands out in my mind. She took the time to get to know me and was there during a difficult time in my life. It was then that I realized teaching was so much more than academics.
Teachers made a difference in my life, and there was no doubt in my mind that I was going to pay it forward someday.
Bossing: I came home from kindergarten and told my mom I was going to be a teacher when I grew up. It’s really the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do, except for when I wanted to be a fighter pilot after the release of “Top Gun.” I can’t imagine doing anything else!
Sikes: I wanted to work with kids, and I wanted to make a difference. Teachers were so important to me, especially my elementary teachers. I saw what they did for me and I wanted to do the same for others.
Are there any unique ways Missouri State helped you prepare for your career?
Slominksy: I had the opportunity to participate in one of the first student teaching academies in Ozark. It was beneficial, because I got a much deeper understanding of how students change and grow and how a school operates.
In my educational specialist program, I was provided rigorous, thought-provoking material that changed how I view education. Instead of sitting and learning about how to teach a certain concept, we had deep discussions about why we teach the concepts that we do.
Bossing: For my master’s degree, I was part of a cohort through MSU and Springfield Public Schools, and that was an amazing experience. I loved how the seated classes were directly connected to our district. I was in a cohort with about 10 people, and we became very close.
Sikes: I had some great professors and peers that made me the teacher I am today.
What are some of your favorite memories as a teacher?
Slominksy: There are so many amazing moments as a teacher. I think the best moment as a teacher is when you can see that your students really know that you love them.
I’ve had students come in at the start of the year reluctant to receive love. They don’t want a hug and they look away when you smile at them. Seeing a child go from that type of behavior to walking in the door with a big smile on their face, and wrapping their arms around you for a hug, is a priceless reward.
Bossing: One of my all-time favorite memories happened at the reading table in my fourth-grade classroom. I was discussing a chapter book with a group and one student described a character as “diabolical.” I was so surprised a fourth-grader used such a word that I started laughing and couldn’t stop! We laughed until we cried!
Years later, I saw that student working at a restaurant. He looked at me, said the word again, and we were both transported instantly to that time at the reading table. It’s a memory neither of us will ever forget!
Sikes: It’s great to see students from years ago come back and see the path they have taken in their lives. A few years ago, I was in the hospital, and two former students were my nurses and took great care of me. It was amazing to watch.
With my current students, I love seeing how much they grow from the beginning of the year to the end. When you spend a year with a student, you grow close and are vested in them for years to come.
What are you most proud of during your time as a teacher?
Slominsky: I think I am most proud of the strong relationships I build with students and their families. My classroom is truly my school family.
Bossing: Being a finalist for Teacher of the Year is quite an honor and will always be a favorite memory. It’s a privilege to be honored for doing something I love.
Additionally, it’s the moments when there are tears over a sad part in a book, or a student finally gets a concept, or when I sit with teammates on the last day of school and we sigh from exhaustion — but we know we did our best for that group of kids. That’s what makes me proud of being a teacher.
Sikes: I am proud of the relationships I develop with my students.