Shawn Cavaness: Spring Creek Kindergarten Teacher of 28 Years

Everyone has a story, even our teachers! Therefore, today, we’re going to be sitting down with someone who has been shaping the young minds of the Spring Creek area’s kindergartners for quite a while. This got me (Anthony Crosby) thinking back to my time in kindergarten. Unfortunately, I don’t recall much. I don’t remember my teacher, and I may vaguely remember some of my classmates. All that honestly comes to mind is doing “woodshop” which consisted of me hammering large nails into flat pieces of wood; my mom was not very thrilled whenever I would bring these dangerous projects home. Even though I may not remember the exact details of my kindergarten teacher’s time with me, I am thankful for her. Now that I get to write read and write every day to make AAT happen, I’m appreciative of the fact that some of these skills were most likely formed and developed in her classroom. Thank you, teachers, for indeed making a difference in the world!

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As previously mentioned, we’re sitting down with our very own superstar of education! Her name is Shawn Cavaness, and she, up until her retirement this past year, has been teaching kindergarten at Spring Creek Elementary for the last twenty-eight years! That’s quite an accomplishment! Currently, Shawn is working part-time as a literacy specialist at Grammar Elementary and still enjoys helping some of the newer teachers at Spring Creek Elementary with learning programs that have worked so well for her over the years.

Shawn, thank you so much for investing so much into hundreds of lives over the course of almost three decades! From where did this passion for teaching the young people of Spring Creek originate?

“I’m from Minnesota, a suburb right above St. Paul.  After high school, I went to a community college and had no idea what I wanted to do. I got a job at a daycare working with four-year-olds, and I absolutely loved it. I just loved the pre-school age and decided that’s what I wanted to do. I went off to the university and got my degree. I did my student teaching in fourth grade before going off to Australia to do my kindergarten student teaching; I had a professor who had an exchange program, so I spent six weeks there doing that and a couple just visiting. However, when I came back home, I missed the main timeframe to get a job in Minnesota, so I sent out my resume and… Elko called me!

“I had never been to Elko before, but I packed my car up and just drove out here. I was in shock when I got here because there weren’t any of the trees and lakes I grew up with! I was only going to stay here for a couple of years to gain my experience and go back to Minnesota. Well…I didn’t go back. I met my husband, had my two kids, and fell in love with this small town. I started out working in Carlin before going to Mountain View Elementary and then spent the rest of my time in Spring Creek. Retiring after being at that school for twenty-eight years is really hard; I miss the kids and collaborating with all of the teachers.”

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Well, I’m sure many Spring Creek parents are thankful for you, Shawn! What would you say was your favorite thing about showing up to your classroom, time and time again over so many years?

“I think the biggest thing was just been being able to watch the kids grow. When they come in as kindergartners, they’re not necessarily reading; they may not know their letters and sounds. However, at the end of the year, they know all of that! That’s what I’ve enjoyed seeing the most. I just loved seeing them grow” Do you ever run into any of your former students around town? “Yeah! I may not always remember their names at first; it may take me a couple of hours, but normally I do remember! Some of them I’ve kept in contact with. This last year, in my class, I had the son of a mother who I actually taught during my first year as a teacher at Spring Creek Elementary; I started my career with her and ended with her boy. That was a neat thing.”

Teachers are some of the biggest unsung heroes in our society today. What they do every day is essential, but it’s not always easy. What was the most challenging aspect of your teaching career, Shawn?

“Things are a lot different now compared to when I first started. I had a lot more freedom when it came to what I could teach. I would still be teaching the same things, but now there’s all the standards and different things that come down from the State; that’s the hardest. You try to get all of that in, while also being a caretaker, a disciplinarian, you have to be all of those things, and more, packed into one.” Keeping those words in mind, what’s the biggest thing you would encourage parents to do when it comes to helping their children’s kindergarten teacher succeed in his/her job? “You can tell which kids have been read to since day one. It’s really important that parents do this with their kids. Read and work with them every day; it only takes about ten minutes. We (teachers) want to do it all, but parents are a great influence on their kids.”

Great! Thanks for the insight coming from many years of experience! Is there anything else you’d like to share with your community as we close out this conversation with you, Shawn?

“I loved teaching kids; I think about them as my kids. I’m going to miss the hugs. I always think and wonder where my students are and what they’re up to…I just care about them. I hope that I have touched and made a difference in some of their lives throughout the years.”

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See you around, Elko

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