Dr. Atikah Shemshack, a 2021 UNT graduate with a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies, was recently appointed the CEO/Superintendent of Promesa Academy, a prominent public charter school in San Antonio. Her journey to this leadership position was shaped significantly by her experiences at UNT, and she attributes her success to the exceptional support and mentorship she received, particularly from her committee chair, Dr. Kinshuk. With his guidance, she learned to believe in herself, embrace challenges, and develop essential skills, such as time management and resilience, which have been crucial in her career growth.
In addition to developing professional skills, Dr. Shemshack has made notable contributions to the field of K-12 education through her doctoral research on personalized learning. A Systematic Literature Review of Personalized Learning Terms, published in 2020, and A Comprehensive Analysis of Personalized Learning Components, published in 2021, have garnered significant attention, emphasizing the importance of bridging the gap between research and practice in education. She has published and presented at international and national conferences.
As an inspirational leader, she values and empowers professionals to achieve their goals. Dr. Shemshack’s doctoral dissertation on Personalized Adaptive Teacher Education to Increase Teachers’ Self-Efficacy highlights her commitment to supporting educators’ growth and development. She carries this commitment forward to her daily work by focusing on each teacher’s education, ensuring they have resources to develop skills and confidence at their own pace.
Drawing from her experiences, Dr. Shemshack offers valuable advice to current students and recent graduates:
1. Embrace a Growth Mindset: Be open to continuous learning and growth throughout your career. As education constantly evolves, staying curious and adaptable to new ideas and practices is essential. Seek opportunities for professional development and be willing to challenge assumptions and beliefs.
2. Build a Strong Professional Network: Connect with educators, researchers, and professionals in your field. Engage in conferences, join professional organizations, and participate in online communities. Creating a network of like-minded individuals will provide support, mentorship, and valuable insights to shape your career.
3. Pursue Higher Education: Consider a doctoral degree to conduct in-depth research, contribute to the field's knowledge base, and develop expertise in a specific area. This advanced degree can open doors to academic, research, and leadership positions.
4. Gain Practical Experience: Seek diverse teaching experiences in various educational settings, including different grade levels and schools. Practical experience will foster adaptable strategies and cultivate empathy for students from diverse backgrounds.
5. Stay Informed about Educational Trends and Research: Keep up to date with the latest research, pedagogical approaches, and technological advancements in education. Engage with research findings that align with your interests to implement evidence-based practices and stay ahead in your field.
6. Cultivate a Reflective Practice: Regularly reflect on your teaching methods, strategies, and interactions with students. Seek feedback from peers and mentors to continuously refine your teaching approach. The reflective practice fosters self-improvement and a better understanding of the impact of your teaching on student learning.
7. Advocate for Students and Education: Be a strong advocate for your students and the field of education. Stay informed about educational policies, advocate for equitable practices, and actively contribute to discussions on improving educational systems. Use your voice to champion the needs and rights of students to ensure they receive a high-quality education.
Dr. Shemshack envisions herself as an education advocate, bridging the gap between educational practices, policies, and research. She plans to continue expanding her knowledge and expertise through ongoing research, professional development, and collaboration with fellow educators and researchers. By fostering collaboration and knowledge-sharing, Dr. Shemshack aims to collectively elevate the quality of education and enhance student outcomes.
By following Dr. Shemshack's insights and advice, aspiring educators can lay a solid foundation for a successful career in education and positively impact the lives of their students and the broader educational community.