At the beginning of the school year , West High welcomed many new staff members, and one of them is the new English teacher, Dr. Shannon Collins.
Collins graduated from Morristown-Hamblen High School East and graduated with an English education degree from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Later, he returned to UTK to get a masters degree in Deaf education and a Ph.D. in literacy studies. In 2008, Collins established/directed the Upper Cumberland Writing Project as part of the National Writing Project network.
Collins writing has appeared in journals such as English Journal, Language Arts, The ALAN Review, Appalachian Heritage, Limestone Review, and The Old Red Kimono.
In his free time, Collins enjoys walking, reading, and playing with his rescued Pit Bull Terrier named Bear. He also states, “When we're able, we're traveling as often as we can to visit the kids and attend concerts.”
Collins expresses his favorite food, “on a recent trip to Denver, CO, my daughter took me to Black Shirt Brewing Company. We had a pizza there that was absolutely unbelievable. The pizza, named "War Pig," was made with a red sauce, a blend of house cheeses, cotija, pepperoni, prosciutto, bacon, sun-dried tomatoes, and a chipotle-maple glaze. The crust was super thin and baked in a traditional wood-fired, brick pizza oven.”
When it comes to his family, Collins talks about how even though he has adult children scattered across Tennessee with one living in Denver, Colorado. Collins explained, “although everyone is busy with their own careers and hobbies, we make certain to gather at least four times each year. Most recently, we all traveled to Nantahala, North Carolina, where we spent a week living in yurts, hiking, and floating down the Nantahala river. One of our favorite memories from the trip was a desert night with wigs.”
Collins depicts that in high school he did the minimum of what he needed to do to get the maximum grade. He states, “Making good grades was important to me but only because I was an athlete and had to have the grades to participate in sports.” Later, Collins decided that he was not going to continue his athletic career and directed his attention to reading and studying. He quotes, “ For the first time in my life, I had become an actual learner. I want to share the excitement of helping young people see themselves in literature or develop the skills to express a myriad of thoughts and feelings through their writing. When I'm at my best as a teacher, all of us in the classroom are living our deepest lives.”
This school year, Collins looks forward to having a good first year as a high school teacher. He comments, “ This year is my first opportunity to work with high school students. I have much to learn about being a high school English teacher and look forward to all of the growth opportunities. What I look forward to even more, though, is developing positive, long-term relationships with the students and staff at West High School.”
As a reader, Collins has read many books and passages but a quote that has stood out to him and that has made an impact on him is from an essay by the American poet William Stafford. Stafford wrote, "My job as a teacher requires of me immediate allegiance to individual students who come through the door . . . As a teacher, my first [responsibility] is simple in its first response: Who’s there? Where to from here? How can I help?”
The main advice Collins has for students is to read. Collins quotes, “Read as much and as often as you can. Even if you aren't reading what teachers are asking you to read, read those books, magazines, and newspapers that you WANT to read. If you are a reader, you will always be the smartest person in the room and the person who enjoys the most freedom.” Dr. Collins is grateful for the opportunity to become involved with the students and staff of the Trojan Nation.