Shayla Adams-Stafford knew she wanted to be an educator at 12 years. In a rural Jamaican community where her family is originally from, a spark ignited within her for teaching as she assisted her Grandmother in a leading an annual vacation bible school. The meager resources they had inspired her work with my family to help raise money for high school scholarships for many of the children.
The lessons she learned at a young age about education, resources and equity have stayed with her throughout her life and are the driving force behind her passion for education. As a student in a Title 1 high school, students were constantly criticized for our low standardized test scores. Once Shayla realized that there were no SAT prep courses offered to students, she took it upon herself to create and teach an SAT course for her peers as a high school Junior. Several of Shayla’s students went on to score in the highest percentiles nationally.
In college Shayla decided to commit herself to providing students from low-income communities with dynamic teaching and educational experiences that she believes all students should have access to. She worked with students in inner-city Boston as a student at Wellesley College and taught in rural Latin American countries during the summers. As a 20 year old she was awarded a $10,000 grant to start a summer school in Rural Mexico. By the end of that summer, their programs reached over 4000 students.
She then left Wellesley College as a distinguished Rockefeller Brothers Teaching Fellow and enrolled in a Masters of Arts in Teaching program at Duke University. While there Shayla fell in love with Durham, North Carolina and when her student teaching was concluded, she took a position at Hillside New Tech High School. At New Tech Shayla was able to combine her love for History and Government and student advocacy to create two innovative curriculums using the Project Based Learning teaching method. She developed the first Women’s Studies Curriculum for High School Students in Durham Public Schools and was one of the first teachers in North Carolina to pioneer using Social Media as part of a history curriculum. She even went so far to partner with local professors to conduct a study and publish an academic journal about the uses of social media in the classroom. While at New Tech, Shayla received several honors including Teacher of the Year, New Tech Certified Teacher and National Board Certified Teacher. She served as a member of the Superintendents Council and helped provide input on the district’s strategic planning. However, her proudest accomplishments were those of her students.
“I teach because I believe classrooms are the genesis of advocacy training which in turn, can change communities. For example, my students and I wrote an expose on the corner store near our school which was selling moldy, expired food to students. Students instituted a boycott and now the store has since been shut down. Last year, my women’s studies class organized a Domestic Violence Awareness Day program in which over 100 students faculty and staff attended. Students received valuable information about teen dating violence and a student even was able to receive rape counseling services on the spot. Moments like these when I am able to help awaken the conscience of my students and help move them to action through provoking lessons, activities and documents make me love teaching.”
In 2009, Shayla was inspired to begin a non-profit RemixEducation after realizing there was a significant need for first-generation college bound students. She began with a scholarship for first-generation college bound high school students. To date the Young LEaders Scholarship has helped over 11 students and given away over $10000 in scholarships to deserving students.
In 2012 she expanded the organization to include H.E.R.Story, a mentoring program that works with first-generation college-bound high school age young women. To date, over 70 young women have participated in the program. By 2014 the program had expanded to 4 sites; Atlanta, Durham, DC and here in Prince George’s County at Crossland High. All of the women who graduated from the program, not only graduated from high school, but were also admitted into a 2 or 4 year institution/ or trade program. Now the program is focused specifically at Phelps ACE High School in Washington D.C. with over 50 students involved. She recently took 14 girls on a 10 school HBCU Tour through her sorority Delta Sigma Theta Inc. ( PG Alumnae Chapter) in which the students received over $200k in scholarships.
RemixEducation has also done a lot of work in getting technology to students the furthest from opportunity. Shayla realized that many students are unable to complete college applications because they do not have a computer at home. Through her Computers to College program, over 150 computers to students that need them in order to complete their college applications.
Shayla Adams-Stafford is currently an instructional coach in Washington D.C. In 2015, she was recognized by the White House for her achievements in Project Based Learning.
She also recently became a member of the National Faculty of the Buck Institute of Education in which she travels the country working with school districts to implement Project Based Learning.