Teacher Spotlight: Karen Shineldecker, lifelong pursuit of science.

March 9, 2021

Teacher Spotlight: Karen Shineldecker, lifelong pursuit of science.

By Kate Krieger-Watkins, staff writer.

Teacher Spotlight is a presentation of Shelby State Bank, www.shelbybank.com with offices in Ludington, Pentwater, Shelby, Hart, Hesperia, Manistee, Montague, Whitehall, North Muskegon, and Fruitport. 

LUDINGTON – Following in her grandmother’s footsteps, Ludington Area Schools teacher, Karen Shineldecker knew she wanted to become a teacher at a young age.

“I went into education for several reasons,” she said. “I grew up knowing my grandmother was an English teacher at Hesperia Schools for over 30 years and just loved all the amazing science books she had for me when I visited. Laura Ward was an amazing lady who was before her time so to speak. She received her master’s degree in English in her early 20s during the 1920s which that alone was an achievement. I looked up to her so much.”

Shineldecker’s father was in the military, so she attended many schools throughout her elementary and secondary education, graduating in 1987.

“I grew up in a military family, so I attended nine different schools before graduating with honors and a welding certificate from Newaygo Area Vocational in 1987,” she said. “I loved the hands-on platform then and still do.”

After working at various jobs for a while, Shineldecker decided that she wanted to teach science and the only way to do so was to return to college, so that’s what she did.

“I went back into college later in life to add to my science degree, so I could teach,” she said. “I chose middle school because that time in my life was difficult to navigate all the nuances and growth, so I wanted to help other kidlets during that time.”

Shineldecker started her career with Grand Valley State University and then moved onto K-12 education.

“I have been in education for the past 10 years, officially at Ludington for four years in middle school,” she said. “I had worked for the GVSU research vessel (in Muskegon) during college and right after college then continued teaching middle school science for Baldwin Area Schools for four years before returning where my children both graduated from.”

Shineldecker teaches science at OJ Dejonge Middle School and she is also STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) certified and the robotics coach for the high school.

Along with her love for science, Shineldecker also shares a love with her students for problem solving, which she stated isn’t just science-related, but a major tool, students need to learn for all aspects of life.

“I love teaching students strategies to problem solve and to be able to compromise while doing it,” she said. “Ensuring they are open minded to other ideas and perspectives. That is the biggest attraction I had for creating the competitive robotics teams at Ludington. Problem solving, collaborative ideals, open minded brainstorming, gracious professionalism, and community outreach. That is what education is to me.”

Shineldecker, along with her husband, Cary and other parents and staff members have formed a very successful robotics team at Ludington High School, The O’Bots. The team has traveled to the World Competition in years past, but with COVID-19 interrupting their season last year, Shineldecker has the team up and running again and hopes to travel to the World Competition again this year.

With 10 years under her belt already, Shineldecker said there is one thing she really wishes would change for teachers and the career they have chosen to enter and love so dearly.

“Today’s perception of what teachers represent is cloudy, underserved, and underrepresented,” she said. “As I look at the future of our teachers present and future, I wish the misconception that teachers are overpaid and underworked would be clarified. There is rarely another career that is required to continue grad studies and credits to ensure certification and possibly increase pay even if minimal with the rest of the country. Teachers don’t teach for the money when many jobs with less education investment pay more per hour than beginning teachers.”

Shineldecker said that as long as a person has a passion for education and working with kids, that person can mold himself or herself into a great educator.

“Future teachers have a bright future if they are mindful of the obstacles and to stay the course to remember why we do what we do,” she said. “Teach kids!”

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