Rocket Scientist to Woodrow Wilson Fellow, Career Changer Finds Fulfillment in Teaching

Nicholas Shaver Headshot

Nicholas Shaver, a 2013-2014 Woodrow Wilson Ohio Fellow, decided that after several years as a rocket scientist it was time to plan a different route for his future. Nick has had a passion for helping others since his time as an undergrad at Texas A&M University. Recently graduated and ready take on a full-time teaching position Nick plans to use his adoration for math to inspire his students to be the best problem solvers they can be.



Q: When did you become interested in the teaching profession and what is your academic background?

A: I studied Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M University and during that time, I had a job as a calculus tutor for several years. I enjoyed being a tutor so much that I had contemplated being a teacher at the time but did not make any efforts to pursue the teaching profession. However, during my five year career at GE Aviation in Cincinnati, I got very involved in community service through opportunities inside and outside of work. Through this experience, I volunteered as a tutor at many different places and was a short term educator with Junior Achievement. I enjoyed trying to be a positive influence in the students’ lives so much that I decided to pursue teaching as a career so that I could follow my passions during the work day, I was thinking about looking into alternate teaching certificates when I heard about the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship and the Woodrow Wilson program really helped me take the plunge and follow my dreams of being a teacher. It offered the support needed to make the transition very easy from one career to the next.

Q: How has the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship impacted your studies and career preparation?

A: The mere fact that the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship exists helped me make the decision to actually become a teacher. Additionally, I have enjoyed the many different classes we have had at the University of Cincinnati about effective teaching methods in the classroom and educational theory about the role of an educator in a democratic society. I also enjoyed the aspect of building a community of early teachers who work to provide support to each other.

Q: What makes you passionate about math and being a teacher?

A: I enjoy how at its core, math is essentially problem solving and putting pieces together.  I have always enjoyed riddles and puzzles, so I hope to bring this level of interest and excitement for math into the daily classroom. Instead of merely making mathematical instruction about rote memorization of procedures and definitions, I am bringing into the classroom the idea that math provides people a way of looking at problems around them to help them solve them. It builds foundational critical thinking and problem solving skills that help people in any endeavor that they find themselves. I also think there is a strong connection to bringing in issues surrounding social justice and looking at issues through mathematical lenses to come up with sound conclusions using data and numbers in general.

Q: What made you choose to continue to work for the school in which you did your student teaching?

A: Although I enjoyed my one year at Withrow University High School as a student teacher for 8th grade algebra and enjoyed the students, the prime reasons that I wanted to stay at Withrow are as follows in no particular order: During my interview with the principal, he restated his goal for excellence in academic achievement for the school and his desire to continuing the partnership with the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship program as one way to reach that achievement. Four of us were hired this year to be part of their staff this coming year, and there will be either five or six Woodrow Wilson student teachers next year as well. I think having this support around me will be very beneficial my first year at a teacher.  Also, I was offered a position early on in the hiring process and was told where and what I would be teaching. That meant that I was able to network with my future colleagues early on, put items in my future classroom before summer even started, and be able to start planning my lessons for my exact class during the summertime. I felt that having this preparation up front would be invaluable as a first year teacher, and already knowing my coworkers and having my mentor teacher in the 8th grade just a hallway away is an invaluable resource. Also, I enjoy biking and with Withrow being only 4 miles away, I will be able to commute via biking!