Shelly Brickey: Teaching in a ‘Living Room’
Shelly Brickey of Crimson Cliffs High School always wanted to teach. Ever since she was little, she knew it was the career path for her, so when opportunity knocked, she fulfilled her lifelong dream.
Shelly Brickey has an adaptive approach to teaching because personal development is part of her routine. She has a huge stack of books and works through them to hone her craft, making changes as she learns new things. “I always have more books than I have time to read,” she said. The wider teaching community is another source of inspiration for her. “I also like to stay in touch with other teachers,” she said. “I like to hear what other people are saying and keep my finger on the pulse of education.”
In her classroom, Shelly places an emphasis on getting her students involved. “I know I already know how to do math,” she said. “There’s a place for direct instruction, but the kids need to be doing math.” She gets this done by spending less time working out problems on the board herself and more time on letting her students gain hands-on experience. “As long as they’re an active participant in what’s happening, I think that’s always better than just watching me,” said Shelly.
Shelly views her work as a teacher as a part of a larger whole. When asked about how her classroom is unique, Shelly had an interesting response: “What’s unique about any of us?” For her, working as a math teacher means she shares a collective goal with every other teacher and it requires all of them to do what is best for their students. “Sometimes, I just feel like we’re all just the same, all of us trying to teach kids math (or whatever subject). I try to make kids feel comfortable in my classroom, but I don’t think that’s any different than any other teacher is trying to do,” she explained.
When you walk into Shelly’s classroom, it’s obvious she really wants to provide this comfortable space for students. There is a sense that it is something more than just a room where learning takes place. It reflects her approach’s focus on student-centered instruction by being less of a lecture hall and more homelike. “I try to make my room feel like a room someone could live in,” she said. “I put decor up more than math things.” The difference is noticeable too. “People walk into my room, and they say it feels like a living [space],” she said. “It doesn’t feel sterile.”