Episode #101: Making a Difference in the Lives of Every Student with Craig Shapiro

By Barbara Bray

Join Barbara Bray in conversations with awesome educators, leaders, and influencers as they talk about their passion and purpose for planting seeds for change. Each podcast has a link to a related blog post with more information and resources.

Craig Shapiro has been teaching for 30 years. He is a health and fitness instructor at William Tennent High School in the Centennial School District, PA. Craig also coaches Cross Country, Wrestling, and Track at William Tennent. Craig is the host the #teachpos on Sunday evenings at 7:30p ET, and, I have to say, Craig is one of the most positive people I know. 
Your background
I was in elementary school in Philadelphia, then in 5th grade, my parents moved to a suburb of Philadelphia where I lived throughout my high school career. I went to Penn State University and then Arcadia for Grad School in Educational Leadership. When I went to Penn State, my father wanted me to go into business. I didn’t know any better. At the end of my freshman year, I will never forget this, like one of those Karma moments. I was taking Economics and we were in this large lecture hall with 300 people. I was sitting in one of the top seats with one of my friends and the teacher was not there that day. The TA (teacher assistant) was teaching and I couldn’t understand him. All I remember him say was something about supply and demand. I turned to my friend and said, “there is no way I am doing this for the rest of my life!” I came home and told my parents that I wanted to be a gym teacher. 
What was it like for you as a student
I hated high school!  Boring every day and of little value. It wasn’t engaging to me.  I found it ironic that something I disliked I ended up doing for a career. I think it actually helped me because I knew when I became a teacher exactly what I didn’t want to do from my experience in high school. I loved sports and hanging with friends and my girlfriend. There were three teachers who had a positive impact on me.
In 5th grade, I didn’t know anyone being new to that school. We were playing kickball in the schoolyard and I slid into 3rd base. I thought I was safe and my teacher, Mr. Betz called me out. I was so upset. I’ll never forget what he said to me. “Craig, I’m so proud of you for taking that risk. Don’t ever be afraid to do that.”  
My high school Spanish teacher, Mr. Black, was also a neighbor of my relatives. He was just funny and would always tell a silly joke. He was so engaging and different from most of the other teachers who just wanted us to take notes or do worksheets. He cared about us. 
I had a calculus teacher at Penn State, Mrs. Gold, who probably had the largest impact on my teaching career. I wasn’t doing that well and we had this one moment where my friend and I were sitting in the back of the room and we had a laughing fit. Mrs. Gold said, “Craig, are you okay? It’s okay that you are laughing. If you need to go outside, go ahead and take a break.” 
Being in her class made me not want to disappoint her because she cared so much. Teaching 101 is not about teaching the objectives on the board, it is about making the class comfortable for the kids so they want to learn. We need to tailor our learning to kids, not have them tailored to us. We should be connecting to parents and their kids so they have the most positive experience in their lives. We need to connect with kids, encourage them to take chances, and reach out so they learn something new. Try to make this about discovery, not something they have to learn during the school day. You’ll not be able to replicate a school day.