Miss Shannon Pipines is a New Jersey-based third grade teacher with a passion for making fun and engaging educational tools more accessible to teachers everywhere. Miss Pipines also believes in a collaborative, student-centered learning style in which students get a say in how they learn by making more choices—helping to develop better communication and leadership skills in the process.
When she’s not inspiring and expanding young minds in her classroom, you can find Miss Pipines on epic nature walks, working out, sharing her thrifty teacher style inspiration on social media, and creating one-of-a-kind merchandise for her Sensational Prints shop.
We recently had the chance to catch up with Miss Pipines about what made her want to become a teacher, the health habits that keep her grounded and able to conquer each day, and what she hopes to teach her students this year.
Q: Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us Miss Pipines! Let’s start with third grade. Why is it such a fun grade to teach?
A: “Third grade is the grade where children are just old enough to complete tasks independently, but they still care and need you. As their teacher, I am able to joke around with them and their personality flourishes. In third grade there is such a vast change my students go through from the moment they enter my room to when they leave me in June. They grow as learners, creative thinkers, explorers, and human beings. In my 7 years of teaching third grade, I have grown to love it, especially knowing I am a part of the growth and development change my students are going through.”
Q: When did you first realize that you wanted to become a teacher? And what are some of your favorite aspects of your career?
A: “For as long as I could remember I wanted to be a teacher. It sounds cliche, but when I was younger I would line my stuffed animals up in front of my easel and teach them the lesson I learned in school that day. I would even sometimes give them grades in an old grade book. My favorite thing to do was read, read alouds to them. Some favorite aspects of my career would have to be the impact I have on my students. During the school year, I have moments of struggle and doubt that I am not reaching all of my students, which one might have. It is at the end of the year, when I look back at the class photos, student work, and our time together to really see how much my students have grown. I love when I see my students using some of my phrases or wanting to be the teacher and teach others like I do. It makes me realize that I am really inspiring and teaching my students to be the best people they can be.”
Q: If we were interviewing your students instead of you, what are three adjectives that they might use to describe you?
A: (Laughing) “My students would have LOVED to answer this question! They would probably describe me as kind, funny, and nice. These are some of the adjectives they have written in cards for me. They said I am kind because I help them solve math problems, I am funny because I am actually crazy sometimes during science experiments, and nice because I allow them to ‘play’ with STEM bins and participate in math centers.”
Q: What does a typical day in the life of Miss Pipines look like? Walk us through your daily schedule – home and school, morning to night!
A: “Mhmm. A typical day looks very chaotic. For one, I love to sleep so I will be sleeping until the last possible second. Then, I will shower, get dressed, and get ready for the school day. I grab my overnight oats, add in some strawberries and/or bananas, pour my coffee, and grab my lunch which is usually a salad, cut peppers, and some sort of snack – usually pretzels. I grab my water bottle, backpack, lunch bag, overnight oats, and coffee and head out the door. Then I drive about 25 minutes to school.
At school, I walk into my classroom, my home away from home, and release all of the items I am holding onto my desk. I turn my Promethean Board on, change the date, fix the chairs and desks if need be, and bring up all of the assignments or websites I need for that day. I will get my Math center resources ready and place them around the room. Along with that I will read my teaching planner (the teacher bible) to see what I have planned for science. If it is an experiment day, I will set up the materials. Then I grab my overnight oats and head to my colleagues room to chat and decompress for about 10 minutes before my students come.
Throughout the school day, I teach, drink my coffee, have lunch, and snack on some pretzels. Then back home I go! It usually takes me about 40 minutes to get home. When I get home, I change right away into my workout attire. I head into my basement where my spin bike and weights are located. My workouts usually consist of a cycling upper or lower body workout, an abs workout, and then a ride on my spin bike to close it out. Some days I take a 3 mile walk and listen to a podcast if I need a rest day.
Then it’s time for some dinner, a quick shower, and then I will create any online store orders I received. When needed, I will complete some work for the next school day, but usually I have everything planned for the week. I’ll make my overnight oats, pick out my lunch, and lay in bed watching my favorite funny TV show until my exhausted body drifts off to sleep.”
Q: With such a busy schedule, how do you stay healthy and grounded? What are some things that you do to refresh and recharge at night or on the weekends?
A: “I’m not going to lie, it is hard to stay healthy and grounded because teacher tired is a real thing. I am a very ‘Type A’ person and I love a routine. Preparing my breakfast and lunch the night before saves me time in the morning. Working out is a way I decompress and disconnect from the craziness around me. The hour I workout I am focused and the end result gives me motivation. I also do not sit down when I come home and I change right away into my workout attire. This helps a lot!
To recharge and refresh on the weekends, I love to go out with my friends and talk to people my age, not 8 and 9 year olds. (Smiling) I also love to spend Sundays around the house. If you ask my students, what is Miss Pipines’s favorite day of the week, they will say, ‘Sunday because she loves to stay in her pajamas all day!’ This is 100% true! I look forward to getting things around my house in order and organized for the week ahead. I also love to go hiking – especially in the fall, explore new places in my area, and try new restaurants.”
Q: Fitness is clearly a big part of your life! What’s your current fitness routine and how does movement and exercise make you a better teacher?
A: “I currently try to workout about four to six times a week. It is a mixture of weights, spinning, and walking. I sometimes run if I am feeling crazy. (Laughing) Movement and exercise makes me such a better teacher. During the past few years with the pandemic, I have found that exercise and moving my body brings me a sense of calm after a long day at school. It is a time for me to escape and to focus on myself. I come into school the next day recharged and ready to be the best teacher to my students.”
Q: What is student-based or student-centered learning and why do you believe it’s such an effective educational method?
A: “Student centered learning is exactly how it sounds, the students are the ones in charge and in control of their learning. I love giving my students choices. In my classroom, I have a lot of seating options that they can choose from when they are completing their work. During Math centers, my students are moving every 15 minutes and are basically in charge of their learning while I am working with a small group. It is so fun to see what they come up with during these centers. Some groups rotate who is the teacher or they create a new game with the resource I gave them. This is so fun to see!
During Science, my students love to utilize stem bins, which are just different bins with different materials inside of them that my students can use to build things with. It is important to build their creativity and socialization. This method is effective because I have seen it work and my students love it. It allows my students to be in charge of their own learning and it engages the students to apply their learning into their own lives.”
Q: Rock, Paper, Scissors was a hit last year due to a popular children’s book. Will you be introducing this year’s class to the game? And who wins more, the kids or you?!
A: “Oh my students loved the book! It won when we completed a March Madness book bracket that year. I will be incorporating Rock, Paper, Scissors into my classroom this year in some sort of way. I haven’t decided how yet. I was thinking maybe how I did last year, where the students had to beat me to be able to line up at the end of the day. I might adapt this into my first week of school activities to get my students up and socializing.”
Q: What’s something you wish more people knew about teachers and what educators go through on a daily basis?
A: “Wow. This is such a good question that teachers do not get asked much. I wish people knew that the teaching curriculum is one hundredth of what teachers need to do everyday. Teachers wear a bunch of hats such as, being teachers, social workers, therapists, counselors, problem solvers, nurses, entertainers, and many more hats. Also, we are human beings just like everyone else. We live normal lives and have families of our own. We make mistakes, need breaks, need time to recharge, and are not available 24/7. Teaching is a job, not a lifestyle.”
Q: What’s one thing that you want all your students to walk away with at the end of the school year after being taught by you?A: “I want each one of my students to walk out of my classroom with more confidence and knowledge than they had when they came into my classroom. My students should know that being kind and respectful in life will bring you great success. I strive to have my students become a classroom family and community.”