Ms. Hancock brings her unique teaching philosophy to Dougherty

The clock struck midnight, and the last email was sent. But her day wasn’t over quite yet, as the looming pile of quizzes were still stacked on her desk — quizzes that had to be graded so her students can use them to study for their upcoming test.

Hard work and dedication — these values are drilled deep into the core of Ms. Shannon Hancock, which is reflected in her lifestyle and ethics as a teacher. It also means that she expects the same from her students. Perseverance and dedication are a must. From a young age, her father has taught her to live by these principles.

“I would say, my dad, he has worked. Hard work and dedication has always been part of our family. And he has that instilled in all of us…even in hard times, he has always continued to support us…in continuing to think about what are you gonna do next? You know, it’s not a time to give up,” Hancock recalled. 

And the drive that her father has instilled in her, she continues to instill in her students.\

A few years ago Hancock introduced a standards-based grading system into the math department. Her purpose in implementing this system was to eliminate the fact that students’ grades don’t reflect their knowledge and understanding. 

She explains that students frequently approach her with questions like, “I need 10 points for my grade to be an A, how do I get those points?” 

The real philosophy behind the system is that communication should be made effective and that learning should be an experience, not a race or competition to be labeled with letters. 

As mentioned earlier, Hancock is a passionate teacher, someone who cares about the knowledge of her students and someone who wants her students to succeed, not just in scoring and grades, but in experience and growth.

Mr. Jackson, a good friend, and colleague of Hancock’s, someone who has known her for more than 15 years, has nothing but approval for her methods and her standards-based grading system. 

As a teacher, he conveys how it bothers him that kids could “squeak out a C because they turned in enough homework and participated in class, but then they failed every test. Yeah, it made no sense to me.” 

And when asked to describe her in three words, he chooses “intelligent, driven and passionate about teaching.”

Jackson elaborates that she challenges him with strong opinions, and how they focus on giving the students a stronger grasp on the mathematical concepts. Their goal is to emphasize the understanding of the course material more than scoring points. 

Upon analyzing the system with which she grades her students, it’s evident that Hancock’s priorities lie in students’ conceptual understanding and their preparation for success in higher-level courses. This not only requires hard work for her, but also for her students.

Hancock also mentions how the system is useful, in reference to students wondering what they missed on tests or how they can improve their grades in the future.

“It helps students figure out what they need to work on. Because otherwise, seeing a B or C or whatever, doesn’t communicate that effectively,” Hancock stated.

Hannah Wang, a student who studied Algebra 2 with Hancock, states, “You have to do a lot of extra studying. But she really does prepare you for precalc, because the work ethic that’s required to pass this class really carries onto the next class, and it makes it a lot easier to go through precalc.” 

She also mentions how having a strict teacher is beneficial for the future, because it’s the same rigorous work ethic that’s required to pass future classes with stricter teachers. 

Drive and motivation are qualities at the core of Hancock and are qualities that she emphasizes most as a teacher, but standing in a high school classroom isn’t all that she does.

It’s easy for students to see Hancock as nothing more than a strict and harsh teacher, but after school hours, she’s someone who enjoys sports and food like us students. She mentioned aspiring to travel the world and going to concerts with friends. 

As much as she pushes herself and her students to work harder and learn better, she enjoys relaxing as well, including Friday nights out with her mom and gardening over the summer. 

“My tomatoes are still growing as we speak, I can’t figure out when they’re going to stop,” Hancock shared.

Behind the deadlines and difficult math problems, Hancock is a teacher who believes that one bad test day shouldn’t define your grade and that a grade shouldn’t define a student, as grades are nothing more than labels.

“My perfect world wouldn’t have letter grades. We would get rid of those entirely because they’re labels. And, I think sometimes we spend too much time trying to place a label on ourselves,” she mentioned.

And as the door creaks open, the slivers of early morning light peeking through the blinds signal that her first class is starting soon. When the familiar ringing of the bell pierces the air and students file into the classroom, a chorus of “hellos” and “good mornings,” she can’t help but wish that she is one step closer to achieving her perfect world.