Position: Graphic Arts Teacher
School: Nagel Middle School
School District: Forest Hills School District
City, State: Cincinnati, Ohio
About the Nominee: James (JT) Shelton has worked for Forest Hills School District since 2011, starting as a paraprofessional working with special needs students before becoming the Graphic Arts teacher in 2013. He is also the seventh grade Assistant Football Coach and Head Wrestling Coach for grades 7 and 8. Additionally, he was asked last year to pioneer a local lacrosse club for seventh and eighth grade boys who had no previous experience with the sport. The new lacrosse club was much needed in the community, as the district only offers lacrosse as a high school sport. Mr. Shelton hopes to help prepare those who are interested in lacrosse for a higher level of play and ease their transition into high school athletics. Teaching fundamentals from the ground up and working with the club's founder to grow and develop their presence in the community, they hope to eventually transition the club into a school-sponsored team. Mr. Shelton firmly believes that keeping students active and involved in sports will not only lead to better physical and mental health, but also teach them basic life skills such as responsibility, time management, communication and how to successfully work with peers and authority figures.
In addition to pioneering the lacrosse club, Mr. Shelton worked with a fellow teacher to successfully develop new curriculum and implement the first year of a new class they created called Broadcast Journalism. The class covers cinematography, video/sound editing and film production, and it can be taken in addition to Graphic Arts. This class has already provided a deeper education and practice for students interested in related careers, as well as the opportunity to travel and submit work to city-wide award programs such as the coveted “Golden Lion Awards.”
Aside from these things, Mr. Shelton has served as a representative on the district’s safety committee and participates each October in Nagel’s student vs. faculty volleyball game to raise awareness for breast cancer. At the end of last school year, he was anonymously nominated by a student to attend the GLSEN (Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network) Educator Appreciation Reception. He very humbly considers it a great honor to be viewed as such a trusted and supportive teacher by students in the LGBTQ community.
During his few years at Nagel, Mr. Shelton has volunteered his time and talents, not only to his students, but to faculty and staff as well. His days begin with helping direct school traffic - even in the bitter Cincinnati winter months. They have ended many times with a short mentoring session with a student interested in improving their art skills or wanting to learn more about career opportunities in the field. He has met with students after school, on weekends and even during the summer to work on different projects. Mr. Shelton seems to have a real knack for fostering an environment where everyone "fits in" and feels comfortable in a class where creativity and individuality are highly encouraged. Often times, he is asked to assist the school and district by creating and designing graphics and logos for various events. His work can been found on the school's yearbook covers, banners and backgrounds for plays and productions, updated team mascot logos for several sports and many, many t-shirts.
One thing Mr. Shelton takes great pride in is the relationship he has developed with the local Mercy Hospital in conjunction with his class. For the past two years, he has worked with administrators at the hospital (which has been under construction) to create a design project for his students. The students would receive instructions from the hospital’s architect and graphic designer regarding a room needing an interior design layout. Then, they would work in small groups guided by Mr. Shelton and create a full student-led presentation to present to the hospital’s design team. The project has been highly successful and popular with the students and was featured on the local news both years. Mr. Shelton believes it is a prime opportunity for his students to learn how to create and give professional presentations before reaching higher levels of education.
Mr. Shelton is a young educator who is highly involved and clearly takes pride in the job he holds at his district. He consistently demonstrates the desire to want more for his students and athletes. Many of them have been impacted in ways they likely don’t even realize, and there is more to come. Mr. Shelton and his wife have some big things going on in their personal lives, yet he still plans to begin his MA in Graphic Design this winter to further his breadth of knowledge and bring it into his classroom. He is a fantastic mentor, teacher, coach and colleague who is always looking for new opportunities to get involved in his district, help his community, and most importantly, provide unbelievable opportunities for his students. Mr. Shelton possesses a rare level of pure intentions for such a young educator. There are bright things ahead in the future for him and the students who have the privilege to call him teacher or coach!