Francis Howell Teacher of the year

Francis Howell North High School Teacher named the 2019 Missouri Teacher of the Year

By Brett Auten

Shelly Parks’ pathway to a life dedicated to education was built by someone close to her.

Parks is a Troy native and her mother, Sandy Turpin, recently retired after teaching for 40 years at Troy Middle School. 

“She was very inspiring,” Parks said. “And in a small town like Troy, a teacher cannot only have a major influence but she was also something of a small town celebrity.”

Parks has been making celebratory headlines herself recently when the Francis Howell North High School English teacher was named the 2019 Missouri Teacher of the Year by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. She becomes the 50th Missouri Teacher of the Year since the program’s inception, and the second to come from the Francis Howell School District. 

Parks is a graduate of Harding University in Arkansas. While there, it was a trip to Romania that drove home the idea that she wanted to dedicate her life to educating others. 

“It sealed the deal,” she said. 

After graduation, Parks spent a semester at Elsberry High School before being hired by Howell North in 2002. Parks teaches Advanced Placement (AP) Foundations, sophomore English and senior AP English. 

“I was very surprised,” Parks said about receiving the Teacher of the Year honor. “In no way do I consider myself the best teacher in the state of Missouri at all. If anything, it means that I am doing some good things in the classroom but I am surrounded by colleagues who are all doing good things in the classroom.”

The talking points when it comes to education in our country are negative more times than not. From tragedies to teacher salaries, to a lack of new teachers coming down the pipeline, many might wonder if high schools are great places to be. Parks is eager to use her new platform to highlight the positive.

“I’m looking forward to being a spokesman and spreading the awesome things students and colleagues are doing on a day-to-day basis,” Parks said. “I’m not going to present it as all roses and sunshine. The reality is a lot of teachers have other jobs to help make ends meet. Within the past 10 years, there has been a 23-percent decline in people going into teaching and there is a lot of turnarounds every year. We have to figure that out and part of it is sharing the joyous parts of our career.”

Howell North Principal Dr. Nathan Hostetler said that Parks holds herself to the highest standards and lives by the motto, “If it isn’t good enough for my own kids, it isn’t good enough for my students.”

“And that applies to what she does in the classroom, what she expects her students to produce, and how she treats every student who walks through her door,” Hostetler said. “She means the world to her students because they know they mean the world to her, and that helps set the tone for high expectations and compassion for the entire faculty.”

In addition to her work in the classroom, Parks has received numerous professional recognitions, attended and led multiple professional development sessions and is engaged in many aspects of the Francis Howell community. In 2007, she became a National Board Certified Teacher (a voluntary, advanced teaching credential that goes beyond state licensure that certifies teachers who successfully complete its rigorous certification process) and was re-certified in 2016. She won the St. Louis-based Emerson Excellence in Teaching Award in 2016, was named Howell North Teacher of the Year in 2017, and the Francis Howell District Teacher of the Year in 2018. 

A committee comprised of teachers, business leaders, and education organization leaders selected Parks as the Missouri Teacher of the Year following interviews with each finalist. The winner, finalists and Regional Teachers of the Year will be honored at a banquet in Jefferson City on Oct. 22. Parks will also serve as the state’s nominee for the 2019 National Teacher of the Year. 

“(Parks) becomes an example for classroom teachers around the state,” Dr. Roger Dorson, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner, said. “Shelly is a tremendous recipient of this award, very deserving, and will make a great Missouri Teacher of the Year, and hopefully National Teacher of the Year.”


CUTLINE: Photos courtesy Francis Howell School District Shelly Parks, a Francis Howell North High School English teacher, was named the 2019 Missouri Teacher of the Year by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.