Meet our 2020 Teacher of the Year, Shakira Perez

Meet our 2020 Teacher of the Year, Shakira Perez

Meet Ms. Shakira Perez, a teacher of 8th Grade Intro to Greek Drama and 12th Grade British Literature at Classical Magnet School — and our freshly-minted Hartford Public Schools’ 2020 Teacher of the Year.

Ms. Perez is a “Hartford kid” and an alumna of the Classical Magnet program when it was housed at Quirk Middle School who went on to study at Capital Community College and the University of Saint Joseph.

Read about her in the Hartford Courant article, Shakira Perez, Hartford’s 2020 Teacher of the Year, is a Hartford native, graduate of the city schools, in CT Latino News article, If Ms. Perez can do it, I can do it! and in our brief interview below to learn more about this amazing teacher.

How did it feel to be named the HPS 2020 Teacher of the Year?
To be named Classical Magnet’s Teacher of the Year felt amazing. And now to be named Hartford’s Teacher of the Year is almost surreal. I take such pride in it because I’m a product of Hartford Public Schools. Also, to have Dr. Torres-Rodriguez and Narciso Moquete announce me as the winner was a special moment. We are all graduates of Hartford Public Schools, uplifting and celebrating each other. So, this is really a win for Hartford.

What responses have you received from colleagues, your children, family, or friends?
The response from my family, friends, colleagues, and former students has been so overwhelming! My heart is so full and my cheeks hurt from smiling so much. I have had people from my past email me and message me on Facebook congratulating me. I’ve read messages that have brought me to tears and made me laugh out loud.

How do you plan to use your platform as TOY?
I would like to create a partnership/mentorship program with the city’s high schools and CT colleges to promote education as a career amongst students of color. I believe that offering the necessary guidance and information about education as a career would be empowering for our students and provide an opportunity to become educators in Hartford as well.

What message do you have for teachers in this time of distance learning/coronavirus?
Embrace the change! I know this experience is unprecedented and difficult, but take the time to learn something new, for yourself and your students. I’ve had to really think about HOW I am going to deliver my lessons in a way that my students will understand and still be engaged. And it’s not that bad. Be open to new ideas and get creative!

How do you include your experience in personalizing your English curriculum for your students?
What I like the most about the English curriculum is the variety of literature it has to offer. Over the years, I have seen students reading more. They now have books that are accessible and relatable. I have read many of the books within our curriculum, so I am better able to discuss the books with the students and develop lessons that are meaningful while addressing the learning target(s).

What message do you have for students?
There is a well-known line in Shakespeare’s Hamlet that says, “This above all, to thine own self be true.” It is so important to stay true to who you are and to never let anyone tell you otherwise. If you allow other people to put you down, you are putting yourself down as well. Believe in your light.

What are your favorite books for children, young adults, and adults?
Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. It was the very first book of poetry my mother purchased for me back in 1985 and I still have it!
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (YA)
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (adult)

Do you plan to submit an application to the Connecticut State Teacher of the Year competition?


Congratulations again to Ms. Shakira Perez, our 2020 Teacher of the Year! Her acceptance speech was poignant and important, and can be viewed at 38:00 in the video link below.

You can watch the entire event here: