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Shelby Burr Follows Pathway to Education

Shelby Burr Follows Pathway to Education

Jan 23rd , 2019

As Shelby Burr began her undergraduate degree program at Midland University, she told herself to keep her mind and heart open to all possibilities. Coming from a family steeped in healthcare, Shelby felt a need to explore a career in nursing. She also felt a passion for the arts. During her freshman year, she was very intentional about exploring her interests. She majored in nursing, but also became very involved in the arts, performing in Midland University’s Choir and Clef Dwellers A Cappella group and working that summer with the Young Americans Camp and the All-State musical productions hosted at Midland. Through her exploration, she found that performing arts and education were her calling, and decided to major in education with an endorsement in K-12 vocal and instrumental education. “I fell in love with teaching, and education gave me the pathway to my immediate goal of teaching instrumental music.”

“College is all about finding what you are called to do and Shelby did just that,” said Michaela Millikan, Shelby’s classmate, friend and roommate. “She came to Midland pursuing a career in nursing and it was through her experiences in the performing arts at Midland that her eyes became open to her passion and gifts in leading and performing.  Shelby deeply considered the pros and cons of altering her choice of major, but she ultimately could not shake her passion and insane dedication to music education. And every day after that moment was a solid confirmation that she made the right choice.”

Recognizing the importance of building relationships with people who want to help you to succeed and who will mentor you along the way, Shelby established strong relationships with faculty and staff at Midland. One such person was Leaha Hammer, Midland’s Director of Student Counseling and ADA Coordination, who said, “Shelby is an absolute light! It is hard to not have a smile on your face when Shelby is around. She has a very special way of making people feel loved and accepted. Even if things are difficult, she finds a way to be positive, which I think is a very important characteristic for her future in education.”  

In the Midland Arts program, Shelby took on the role of arts retention office assistant to enhance her relationships and to learn all facets of the program firsthand. Kathy Hays, Director of Arts Student Achievement in the Midland Arts program, oversaw Shelby in this role. “If there was an award for Most Valuable Student for the performing arts department for the last four years,” says Kathy, “Shelby Burr would have won it.  She has impacted every area of the arts with her dedication, hard work, and passion.  Shelby was one of our music education students, so she was actively involved in the areas of vocal and instrumental music.  She also participated in theater productions on stage, worked as a stage manager and as back stage crew, helped to build and paint sets, and took dance classes.  Very few students have been this actively involved in all five areas of the performing arts. She was an Arts Parent and was an officer on the Arts Leadership Council.  However, it is as my work study assistant that I got to know Shelby the best.  She is very organized and is a self-starter.  Many times she had a job done before I asked her to do it.  She planned and carried out many of our arts events and was my right hand woman for anything that my office led.  I definitely miss her efficiency and hard work, but I most miss her positive energy and her smile.  She brightened up any activity in which she was involved.”

While pursuing her education degree, Shelby has relished the opportunities to be out in the classrooms with a wide range of students - and on football fields with marching bands! - practicing all she had learned and honing her talents. This past semester, her early mornings were spent student-teaching high school students at Gretna High School, her late morning and early afternoons at Aspen Creek Elementary in Gretna, and her late afternoons with students at Gretna Middle School. Dr. Gerald Beach, an instructor in the Walker School of Education at Midland, oversaw Shelby in her student teaching. He said, "Shelby effectively handled the teaching and activities required for a K-12 music endorsement while engaged with students and co-operating teachers in three different buildings (elementary, middle school, high school).  Quite a set of challenges, but her persistence and skills carried her through."  

Roommate Michaela talked about Shelby’s hard work and dedication, “She not only took on the two schools she was given (middle and elementary), but she went out of her way to work with the Gretna High School Band during the day and before and after school during marching season. (They went on to win the state marching band championship!) On top of that, to build her resume, she took on part-time jobs at an after-school program working with kids and as a coordinator for a church choir. I will never forget how Shelby changed after the NE State Marching Band Competition. I truly thought that she would be relieved to not have early morning practices and weekend competitions after an intense few months. Instead, she moped around our apartment and when I asked why she was sad, tears welled in her eyes as she told me how much she missed working with those kids. If that is not the definition of someone called to education, I have no clue what is.” 

Throughout her time at Midland, Shelby has been a star, not only being involved in many organizations on campus, but also leading in those groups. She participated in the Anderson Leader Scholar Program, Choir, Clef Dwellers, Band, Theater and Technical Theater. She served as secretary of Phi Omega Sorority, as a Greek Council and Inter-Sorority representative, and is a member of the Midland University Chapter of the Nebraska Music Educators Association and the National Education Association. She has helped to make countless freshman feel welcome at Midland through her mentoring, her volunteering at Warrior Welcome Days, and through being a student assistant in the classroom for the MID101 freshman experience course. Shelby earned the “Instrumental Scholar Performer” award in May of 2018, and was recently in an elite group of senior students who were selected by Midland faculty and staff to receive the “Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities” award.

Looking back, Shelby believes that one of her most noteworthy contributions to Midland was the work she did as a member of the Performing Arts Council, which “provided me the opportunity to be the voice of students and help others to love the performing arts at Midland as much as I do.” Being this involved has taught Shelby many life lessons. “There are many kinds of people, and you have to do your best to work with all of them. We may not always see eye-to-eye, but no matter what, we respect all those that we meet. I have also learned that communication is so important in every situation. Not only is communicating important, but the way that we communicate, as well. People will respond when spoken to in a respectful, considerate manner.” Her field-base teaching experiences allowed her to practice and develop her communication style with students K-12, other educators, principals, and parents.

Shelby recently graduated in December of 2018 and is already putting her education, skills and strengths to good use. As she awaits Nebraska Certification and applies for full-time K-12 Instrumental Teaching positions in the immediate future, she will continue to be the Choir Director at the United Presbyterian Church in North Bend, Nebraska. She has also been hired to substitute full-time in the North Bend Schools in March and April. Her long-term goal currently is to pursue a graduate degree in music therapy, which would allow her to help people to heal and live better lives through the gift of music.  Her Clifton StrengthsFinder Signature Themes are: Significance, Restorative, Input, Focus, and Deliberative, which align beautifully with her choice of career. It is in her nature to want to make a positive difference. She is thoughtful about her choice of words and actions. A natural problem-solver, she can see what needs to be done and how to get there, and acts as a resource for help and inspiration.

When asked what advixe she would give to aspiring Midland students, she said, "Grab ahold of all the opportunities Midland gives to you. Because of them, I figured out what I wanted to do with my life and became a well-rounded person. Take that step of faith and try different things!" Looking back on Shelby's time at Midland, it is evident that she did indeed keep her mind and her heart open to all of the possibilities.