Fairfax Elementary teacher makes learning a thrill

Published 9:00 am Saturday, November 6, 2021

When you walk into Shana Arrington’s third grade classroom at Fairfax Elementary, the first thing you might notice is the reading loft in the back. Arrington’s parents built it from an old staircase.

“You can see the spindles where the top part of the staircase, the shelves were the stairs, and the ladder is the bottom part of the spindles,” she said. “My kids actually get up there and read. They love it.”

The reading loft exemplifies Arrington’s exciting, hands-on approach to teaching. She said it makes reading more fun.

There’s always something going on in her classroom.

“I call it controlled chaos,” she said. “I always know what’s going on, but we’re always busy and hands-on in here because I feel like if you do it and have your hands in it, you’ll remember it.”

Arrington was “extremely surprised” to discover she had been chosen as her school’s teacher of the year when the school principal, Beth Chandler, announced it at a faculty meeting. Chandler mentioned that the teacher of the year’s family was hiding nearby, soon after which Arrington’s three year old son came running to her with flowers.

“I immediately teared up and got really excited,” Arrington said. “She was sharing all the things that parents and other teachers and coworkers had said about me, and I was very honored. I hope that I’ll live up to their expectations that they talk about and that I measure up to everything they said because it was very sweet, very thoughtful.”

One of the most flattering compliments she received resulted from a mother asking her child what he liked about Arrington’s classroom, to which he responded that he loved Arrington.

Arrington was also commended for practicing good communication.

“And I love that because as a parent, myself, of the school, I want to relay everything that’s going on, even if I’m absent,” she said. “If we’re doing the fun stuff… Like, we made pumpkin pie in the classroom. I reached out and let all the parents know what we were doing. I send them pictures. I have two different apps that I use — I use Remind and ClassDojo to communicate with my school babies’ parents.”

Parents also complimented Arrington’s fun teaching style and how she keeps her grades up to date.

Every Friday in Ms. Arrington’s classroom is “Fun Friday.” Last Friday, her students made pumpkin pie in a bag.

“The Friday before that, we were learning about spiders,” she said. “So, the Fun Friday thing was they got to make spiders out of Oreo cookies and pretzels. And of course, I sent my parents pictures of that.”

Also on Fridays, students get to hold Caesar the bearded dragon, one of two class pets. Arrington also puts the class hamster, Chewy, in a special hamster wheel that looks like a car, which he “drives” around the room.

“The kids think that is so much fun, and I do, as well,” she said.

Arrington’s class does a lot of projects. Outside her classroom on the hallway wall were posters students had made about different types of birds.

Arrington jokingly tells her students that when she grows up, she wants to be Ms. Frizzle from “The Magic School Bus.”

“If you’ve ever watched ‘The Magic School Bus,’ that is the teacher that’s always doing something fun,” she said. “That’s kind of my idol. Yes, she’s a cartoon character, but she’s always innovative in her learning style. She’s always doing something fun. And if I could truly take a magic school bus, I would, and that’s what I want my kids to know — that I want learning to be fun. I want it to be magical.”

Arrington’s favorite thing about her job is seeing a student finally grasp a concept they’ve been struggling with.

This is Arrington’s first year teaching at Fairfax and her first year teaching the third grade. She previously taught first grade for 10 years at W. O. Lance Elementary School in Lanett. She was initially afraid of teaching third grade but found that she likes how third graders are more independent than first graders.

“First grade, you spend more time tying shoes and helping them do many things, you don’t get to do the higher order things,” she said.

Before she was a teacher, Arrington was a hairstylist. For a while, she worked in New York for Conair. She still cuts hair on the side and teaches Sunday school and on Wednesday nights at her church. She also helps with her oldest son’s soccer team.