by Brian Turrel
First-year Turner Elementary kindergarten teacher Maddy Shackelford suspected something was up. Principal Tara Hudson had called her out of class to give her a Teacher Appreciation Week T-shirt, but the principal was “acting a little weird.”
The secret was revealed when she got back to her classroom to a big shout of “Surprise!” from her enthusiastic students, and longtime Sporting KC great Matt Besler announced her as the Blue KC Sporting Samaritan for May.
Besler spent time with the very inquisitive class, reading two story books, answering questions from the students and personally autographing a card for each child.
A father of two, Besler deftly handled the question of why the letters fell from the tree in “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom,” a story he’s read to his own kids. He also got a big response from the kindergartners when he told them he started playing soccer at age 5. “I’m 5!” many of them said in unison.
Shackelford received a record 10 nominations for the Sporting Samaritan award, many from colleagues inspired by the passion for teaching she showed in a recent speech she gave to the Turner Elementary faculty.
Even though she’s a new teacher, she handled her class like a seasoned professional, getting the students to focus and work together despite the unusual events of the day. Shackelford credited her peers and mentors for helping her to learn so quickly.
Education runs in Shackelford’s family. Her father Rob, now an elementary school principal in the Shawnee Mission district, previously taught at the Turner Sixth Grade Academy. Her mother Tammy is a first-grade teacher at Lenexa’s Sunflower Elementary.
Hudson said she felt like Shackelford was meant to be in her new role. She requested Turner Elementary for her student teaching because of her father’s love for the Turner community and schools. The school “fell in love” with their student teacher, and when a full-time kindergarten position came open for the 2021-2022 school year, she was a natural fit for the job.
Hudson also credited Shackelford’s positive attitude while taking on the challenges of a slightly larger than normal class size and some students who are not native English speakers.
After meeting the class, Besler compared Shackelford to his first teacher, Mrs. Miller at Stanley Elementary.
“She made it fun for us, and she did a great job organizing the classroom. I can see a lot of her in Maddy,” Besler said.
The Blue KC Sporting Samaritan program is a partnership between Blue KC and Sporting Kansas City that recognizes the contributions to the community of students and teachers each month through the soccer season. Nominations can be made at www.sportingkc.com/blue-kc/.
Shackelford will be recognized on the field at Children’s Mercy Park before Sporting KC’s match against the Colorado Rapids on May 18, coincidentally the last day for students in the classroom at Turner Elementary. Shackelford’s fellow teachers are planning to be on hand at the game to cheer her on.