Teacher Spotlight - Shelli Zeller

Teacher Spotlight - Shelli Zeller

Name: Shelli Zeller

School: Crawford Woods Elementary

Department, Grade: English Language Arts, 5th grade

Hometown: Franklin, Ohio

Favorite book: “Where the Red Fern Grows”

Favorite season: Summer

Favorite hobby(ies): Decorating my home and classroom.

Favorite emoji: 🙄


Shelli Zeller has been teaching in the Hamilton City Schools district for 18 years, 12 of which have been at Crawford Woods Elementary. Before joining the Crawford Woods Elementary staff when the school opened in 2010, Shelli’s first classroom experiences were at All About Children preschool and Our Lady of the Presentation preschool.


When asked what (or who) inspired Shelli to begin teaching, she recalled the first student she ever taught.


"I started babysitting when I was 12 years old," Shelli explained. "I used to play school and library with my little brother. I remember being the teacher and making him do 'seat work.' He didn’t play with me much after he realized he had to do so much work."


Shelli was initially interested in studying nursing in college, but the call to teach was too strong to ignore.


“When I started college, I decided to go into nursing. While attending college, I also worked part-time at a local preschool called All About Children. I enjoyed it and even contemplated whether I should go full-time and take a break from school. I was discussing this with my mom and she suggested I change my major to elementary education. That is what I did! Now, 27 years later, I am still doing what I love and am passionate about.”


Shelli describes herself as “a traditional teacher who has reinvented herself about 23 different times."


"Each child is different which, in fact, makes all classes different," Shelli elaborated. "For the most part, I would describe my classroom as very positive. Students work hard when they are noticed and complimented. Of course, there are times when a child needs a consequence, however I have found that if you genuinely find the ‘good,’ the students work hard and try to please."


Shelli spent most of her career teaching 4th and 5th grade math, but moved to English Language Arts (ELA) two years ago. She herself struggled with ELA as a young student, so she makes sure to set classroom goals with understanding and approach her students with empathy.


“Crawford Woods students come from very diverse backgrounds with many students speaking a second language at home,” Shelli stated. “My desire is to grow my students' vocabulary this school year. With intentional vocabulary study three days per week, my hope is to introduce them to around 200 new vocabulary words through the literature we are reading every day. I started this around the third week of school and I have seen the students use the words in their writing and everyday speech. This makes my heart happy.”


The rapport Shelli has with her colleagues at Crawford Woods gives her a reason to be excited to go to work each day.


“My 5th grade team is the best!” Shelli exclaimed. “Insconcia Mitchell and I go way back. We taught together at Van Buren, and she is my rock and encourages me in ways no one else can! Kristen McQeary and I taught math together for several years and we have similar teaching styles. She and I just ‘get’ each other. I wouldn’t want to work with anyone else. Mackenzie Rittner has been my teaching partner for the last two years and I have enjoyed my time with her. Even though she is half my age, we complement each other!”


Shelli has two pieces of advice to ensure a successful school year:

  • For students: “Be an advocate for yourself. You need to speak up and ask for help.  It sometimes takes months before a teacher really understands all the needs in the classroom. Don’t wait, because the earlier you get the help you need the faster you can catch up."
  • For new teachers: “The one thing I would recommend is to come with a ‘teachable’ spirit.  Please don’t come with an attitude of already ‘knowing it all.’  Come with questions, a reality that you are human, and you are going to make many, many mistakes. Every year is different.  Understand that you are teaching little humans and what works with some students will not work with others.”
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