Manager of the Month is Expert in Storytelling

April 20, 2017

Culture, News


Photo by Amber Romero — Shelly Bethke said having conversations with students is the highlight of her job.


By Amber Romero

Congratulations to April’s Manager of the Month, Shelly Bethke! One of the ASK Academy’s finest scimatics managers said she loves having discussions with her scholars and seeing their creativity. Below she explains the mystery and experiences of her life as a teacher.


Why do you think scholars voted for you?

I try to keep science classes fun and engaging.

At what point in your  life did you decide to become a teacher? How did it happen?

always thought that I would like to be a teacher when I was going through school but then the reality of teacher salaries made me decide that maybe engineering would be a better choice.  When my kids were in kindergarten I got involved in volunteer teaching opportunities, like working as a school guide at a farm and working as a music docent in the schools. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to go back to school and get a teaching credential.

What was your first teaching job?

I started out working in the 5th grade in Cupertino, California.  Elementary school is pretty fun because you get to do all the subjects, which can be combined into larger interesting projects like invention fairs and Oregon Trail type adventures. But my real love is science; I decided to get my single subject license for science after my kids were in middle school and I realized that middle school kids aren’t too scary.

Why do you teach math and science?

I teach science and math, but really science is my favorite subject. I never get bored of the topic and there is so much to learn. The projects that can be done are so exciting as well, for example combustion cars, solar ovens, inventions – science is so hands on and interesting.

What kind of student were you in high school?

I was a motivated student. I really enjoyed school.

Who were the teachers or people who influenced you in your life?

The teachers that I remember were not necessarily from my favorite subjects, they were the teachers that reached out to me as a person. It is easy in a big school to be the non-trouble making kid who gets lost in the crowd.  I really appreciated it when my Algebra teacher would make a special effort to find out more about me.  

What is the hardest part about teaching middle school?

Sometimes I work with capable kids that aren’t really trying to get the most out of the opportunities this school has to offer and that is frustrating. Also it seems to be a really common thing in middle school to not turn in work and then ask for extra credit at report card time, but I’m sure this is just a middle school thing…

What is the best part about teaching?

I love talking to the scholars.  I really enjoy seeing the creative ideas that come from scholars here.  Every once in awhile I get included in a discussion of what is happening in other classes, which I always find enjoyable.  Last year I did this thing called check-ins in one of my classes and I learned so much about the scholars – that worked because I had a 2-subject block and it was easy to give time to scholars to talk about what they had on their mind.

What do you dislike the most about teaching?

When people are disrespectful or mean. Destruction of school property is also annoying.  

What makes ASK different than other schools?

At most schools I have taught at I didn’t get to see the 8th graders after they moved on to high school.  Here I get to see them and it’s great to see them go on to do well in high school.  I am especially happy when someone that was struggling in middle school really turns it around in high school.  It is a tribute to the encouragement they get from their high school managers!

What are your hobbies?

I sing in the Global Choir, we sing songs from all over the world.  It is challenging and fun to learn how to sing like other cultures.  There is a lot of homework since we memorize our songs.  

I am also in Toastmasters and I enjoy public speaking, especially storytelling.  A couple of years ago I won the district Tall Tales Contest.

Tell us what you do when you are not teaching? Are you  married/have kids?

I am married and I have 2 daughters. I also have a lot of pets — 2 dogs, 2 cats, 2 lizards and 1 snake. I love taking care of pets.

What has been the most profound experience you have had teaching this year?

The most profound thing about teaching is that I get to witness what the future holds for our society.  I see so many scholars that have passion and creativity that is evident when they work on projects. When I assign those projects I think of the possibilities but typically I am surprised by extra creativity, a new look at a problem. At these times I think of the real life problems that these scholars will one day tackle and if they put the same creativity and passion toward these issues then our future is going to be brighter.  

What piece of advice would you give to scholars based on your knowing experience?

My advice is to find what you enjoy, then pursue it.  Find the educational opportunities to learn more about that subject and look for a career that allows you to utilize that passion.  There is a great quote that I think of when I think about what I do, “If you have a career that you love you will never work a day in your life.”



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