By CATHY MOUNCE
Register Staff Writer
Shannon McCuistion’s work in north Texas as Gainesville High School’s (GHS) agriculture Science teacher, has earned her status as “Teacher of the Month” for September at the recent GISD board meeting.
After graduating from Sanger High School in 2005, McCuistion continued her education at Tarleton State University in Stephenville where she received her bachelors degree in agricultural services and development with a teaching certificate.
“My agriculture teacher and mentor in high school, Mr. Ruland, encouraged me to get involved with the agriculture and FFA program,” McCuistion said. “ I had both steers and pigs as projects and we won high marks at the Southwest Exposition and Livestock Show in Fort Worth.”
McCuistion spent two years at Desoto High School south of Dallas after college and earned recognition for her outstanding leadership in the classroom. But the small town girl from north Texas wanted to be closer to her roots and when the opening at GHS became available, she jumped at the chance to apply for the position.
“Being far away from my family made me appreciate them even more,” she said. “I loved working with kids at Desoto but I am so grateful to be home again and this is where I want to stay.”
“My parents still live in Sanger,” she continued. “My brother and I are the first in our family to go to college and earn our degrees and our parents encouraged us in every way. They are truly my heroes.”
McCuistion said she knew at a young age that she wanted to be a teacher and played at teaching whenever possible.
“I would line up my teddy bears in a row when I was five and be their teacher,” she said. “ I even had a chalkboard so I could write out their lessons. Not sure what I thought they learned but something inside of me directed me to teaching.”
Her enthusiasm about teaching and support for her students has apparently helped increase enrollment in agriculture-related classes at GHS.
The agriculture program has grown from 45 students to an expanded base of 155 students.
“There are over 45 different classes I can teach now and if a student expresses an interest in a certain field, I will do what I need to do to make it happen,” she continued. “I tell my students that we will take them as far as they want to go but they have to work hard and have the desire to accomplish their goals.”
This past year McCuistion added a fine arts certification to her qualifications which enables her to teach a floral design class.
“I would love to see all of our students go to college,” she said. “That experience and education is something that no one can take away from them.”
“But college may not be for everyone and I want to support my students in whatever career choices they make,” she continued.
“I think that with our ever changing world flexibility is a must and as teachers we sometimes have to adjust to address the needs of our students.”
Not one to rest on her laurels, McCuistion sets goals for herself as well as her students. Within five years she hopes to have an agriculture barn west of the campus as her class size continues to grow.
Future plans include working on her master’s degree one day and eventually moving into an administration role.
That goal is put on hold for now as McCuistion’s complicated and full schedule now includes June 2014 wedding plans to fiancé’ Dustin Rucks. Rucks is employed at CoServ Electric.
GHS principal David Glancy said, “Ms. McCuistion’s dedication to our students goes far beyond the scope of her agriculture classes or FFA. She has used her tireless, proactive work ethic along with her outstanding relationship building skills to develop the GHS agriculture program from just a handful of members to a proud and growing organization that is becoming a pillar of Gainesville High School.
McCuistion reflected on her future and said, “When I retire and look back on my career one day, I hope to say that even if I have changed the life of just one child, I have done my job.”
From Sanger High School Indians to GHS, McCuistion has firmly entrenched her presence and legacy at GHS in only a few short years.
“I may have graduated an Indian but I will die a Leopard,” she laughed.
Robert and Jenny McCuistion’s baby girl Shannon McCuistion has returned home not only to her roots but to her future as well.