“The challenge for me is making sure my homeless students have the opportunity to complete their education”: Q & A with Casmore Shaw, MEd ‘18
As a first generation college student, Casmore learned at an early age how important and valuable it was to obtain a quality education. Read on to discover how he’s instilled those same values in his homeless students, and how earning his MEd has better equipped him to help them complete their degrees.
How important was it for you to obtain your MEd?
I grew up in Jamaica and I came here as a teenager, but work and family responsibilities made it so that I did not complete my education when I should have. But I made sure my children were educated. Then I went back to school to finish the process.
I’m a first generation college student and education was very, very important to my parents even though they were not college graduates. Coming from a family that believes in education, although they were poor, it was a really serious issue for them — that growing educationally, spiritually, and socially within our community would be a contribution to society.
What was your greatest takeaway from your degree?
My takeaway from this program is to be the best you can be. The great stoic philosopher Epictetus once said, “Only the educated are free.” That is why I earned my master’s degree in education at Concordia Portland — because that will help me to help my students reach their highest potential.
In what ways do you feel your degree has benefitted your work?
My master’s degree has benefitted me professionally, not only through my work with colleagues, but it’s also helped me garner community support for a special program I work with called “My Brother’s Keeper”. It’s a program for homeless students on campus. My MEd with a Reading Interventionist concentration helped me focus on the reading process of my students, especially my homeless students. They understand: if they can’t read, they can’t do math. If they can’t read, they can’t understand anything about literature. If they can’t read, they will not be able to progress.
It sounds like that community program would present some unique challenges. What obstacles do you face and what helps you overcome them?
The challenge for me is making sure that students who are homeless have the opportunity to complete their education. It’s what I call “commit to complete”. I try to make it so there aren’t any excuses for not finishing or completing their degree — to the extent that I go into the community and I make sure that all the social services, all the scholarships, and all the other accoutrements that go with it are available to our students. Sometimes it can be very challenging, but persistency, consistency, and perseverance will always help to bring it to bear.
Stability is very important, too. When you see a student struggling because of food insecurity or because they don’t know where they’re going to sleep at the end of the day, or what they are going to be wearing the next day, it’s heartbreaking. So I reach out to professors who care, to churches and other organizations in the community and they come together to make things happen for those students. It’s heartwarming. And a good Christian education also helps that process. At least for me, I know that’s the humanity that an education at Concordia provides as well.
When did you know you wanted to be a teacher?
I was in elementary school and I had a teacher by the name of Mrs. Fritzritzon. And just by her diction and learning poetry — I was enamored and that brought me to that place where I wanted to be like her. She was kind, she was patient, and if that’s what teachers did, then that’s what I wanted to be.
What do you think is one of the biggest misconceptions about teachers?
The biggest misconception is that teachers just come to the classroom, teach, and then leave. They don’t know that teachers are psychologists, nurses, doctors — they are basically involved in all aspects of a student’s life. They are counselors. They listen. So it’s not just teaching. The main goal is to make sure that our students are comfortable and motivated in learning.
If you can walk in a teacher’s shoes for just a moment, that perhaps will help you understand the daily rigors of a teacher’s life. It’s not about the money. It’s about making society better through an educated society. An educated community is a productive community.
What would you say to anyone who’s thinking about pursuing their MEd?
If you’re thinking about earning your master’s degree online, Concordia Portland is the university to do that. They are at the cutting edge of all educational technologies.
And I must say a very big thank you to Dr. Bolden, Professor Lawrence, and to Scott Thorn for all the assistance that they have given. Here at Concordia, the staff and the faculty are superbly progressive and supportive.