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Quick to Say, "How Can I Help?"
Shelby Ijames is Certified Instructional Support Personnel of the Year for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.
By Kim Underwood
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
MAY 27, 2021 – As the Instructional Facilitator at Caleb’s Creek Elementary, Shelby Ijames does whatever is necessary to support staff members and students.
Once, when someone wondered whether some needed papers had accidentally been thrown out, Ijames climbed into the dumpster and searched until she found them.
And she was happy to do it.
“I want to be remembered as someone who was always willing to help,” Ijames said.
Such dedication makes her most deserving of being named Certified Instructional Support Personnel of the Year – a new category this year for the Core Awards for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.
Rita McPhatter is the Principal at Caleb’s Creek.
“I'm so excited that Mrs. Shelby Ijames was selected as our first Certified Instructional Support Personnel of the Year for the district,” McPhatter said.
“Her positive attitude and love for reading, teaching, and learning are reflected in the outstanding work she does on a daily basis.”
“Shelby is a highflier, energetic, and very knowledgeable of the elementary curriculum. Her enthusiasm, gentleness, and love for teaching and learning are evident.”
“Shelby also strives to be a lifelong learner and to communicate the importance of this to her students and her peers. She establishes and maintains high expectations for all students and truly believes ALL children can learn.”
“Shelby is cooperative and always goes above and beyond to do the very best job she can for the students and staff. She is dependable and is a team player. She carries out her professional responsibilities. She gives generously of her valuable time, and, often, her work extends beyond the school day. One example of that is her collaboration work with a group of IFs to design, develop, brainstorm materials, letters and presentations for use at our schools.”
“Shelby is quick to say, ‘How can I help?’ or ‘What do you need me to do?’ when there is a task to be done. In the years that I have known her she has earned the respect of her students, her peers, the parents, and the Kernersville Community.”
“Mrs. Shelby Ijames is a dedicated teacher who desires and strives to make a difference in the lives of all children. She is well-deserving of this honor and will make the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School System proud.”
To celebrate the win, her sister and brother-in-law, Chelsy and Mike Helton, had a congratulatory banner custom-made and surprised her with it by placing it on the school grounds.
“This is very unbelievable,” Ijames said as she, McPhatter and Assistant Principal Amy Carter Bland posed with it.
“I am still flabbergasted. I am blown away and humbled.”
The staff at Caleb’s Creek had everything to do with her doing well, Ijames said.
MiGuana Egerton is the Data Manager at Caleb's Creek.
“Would it be a fair statement to say, ‘The 2021 Core Awards Category “Certified Instructional Support Personnel” was just for Shelby Ijames?” Egerton said.
“What an honor to have my friend, colleague, mentor, administrator nominated and win this award. Anyone who knows Shelby can agree that she is "Daisy" from Daisy and Her Many Hats! She is our Instructional Facilitator, MTSS Coordinator Guru, Testing Coordinator, PLT Coach, IST Coordinator, Dance Team Instructor, Office Administrator, and much more.
“Shelby has always taken the initiative to help ANYONE who was/in need regardless if the person is at our school or not. Shelby carries her sweet southern charm with her wherever she goes.”
“She is very charismatic and would make for the perfect negotiator at any police department for sure! Just listening to her, she can make you believe in yourself all over again and will give you the confidence to continue on and never give up.”
“My friend did this to me years ago! My admiration for Shelby goes beyond this award. I can list countless ways of how she truly deserved this wonderful recognition but I would be remiss if I did not say her greatest and my most favorite quality she possesses is "Serving Others" - 1 Peter 4:10 "As each has received a gift, use it to serve another, as good stewards of God's varied grace". What a way to win this award by doing the works of the lord!”
“Well deserved, my friend.”
Ijames husband, Dustin Ijames, teaches Business Education at Glenn High and also serves as an assistant coach for baseball.
They have two children. Delaney is in the Pre-K program at Caleb’s Creek, and, at the age of 2, Bailey is already quite outgoing.
“There is not a shy bone in her body,” Ijames said.
Ijames loves that her husband’s family lives in Kernersville and her parents live in Wallburg in Davidson County so it’s easy for everyone to get together.
Before Ijames’ mother, Sally Sikes, retired, she was a Primary Reading Teacher. At one point, they taught at the same school. Her father, Barry Sikes, owns a business in Colfax called American Solutions for Business. Mike Helton works there, and that’s where the banner was made.
Not only was Ijames’ mother an educator so was an aunt and her maternal great grandfather, Ben Smith, who became a superintendent in Greensboro.
“Education is in my blood,” she said.
Even so, it wasn’t until college that she decided she wanted to become an educator.
Ijames is quite athletic. She started taking dance classes when she was 2. Usually, the dance teacher didn’t work with children that young. But, when she met Ijames and saw her enthusiasm, she made an exception.
Ijames loved to dance and compete. As she became older, she noticed that if she, say, played basketball, she would be able to compete more often. So she shifted her focus.
She played basketball and did well.
Her father told her that, if she received a full basketball scholarship to college, he would spring for a car. She did, and he bought her a silver Honda Accord.
At Lander University in Greenwood, S.C., she played forward for the Lady Bearcat Basketball Team. She was originally interested in psychology and could see going into some aspect of psychology that would enable her to help others. However, after starting her freshman year as a double major in education and psychology she quickly realized that being an educator was the career path for her. She had several inspiring professors who got her thinking she would find it satisfying to do what she could to help other teachers.
One thing she noticed is that there was sometimes a disconnect between the theory that was taught and what the real world was like.
“It needs to be truly related to what you’re about to walk into,” she said.
She wanted to do something that made a difference.
“I wanted to make it more real,” she said.
All of that put her on the career path that led to becoming an Instructional Facilitator.
She joined Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools in the fall of 2005 as a second-grade teacher at Sedge Garden Elementary where her mother was teaching.
“I loved being in the classroom,” she said.
What took her out of the classroom was the opportunity to become a K-8 Curriculum Specialist in English Language Arts for Guilford County Schools. She went on to take on more responsibility as the K-12 Literacy Coordinator for Guilford County Schools.
After several years, she began thinking about finding a position that would enable her to be based in a school.
“I wanted to go back to a school setting because I missed being with students,” she said. “I love the energy, the excitement and the hugs.”
After a stop at a school in High Point, she joined the staff at Caleb’s Creek Elementary in 2013.
Dance was still a part of her life. At Sedge Garden, she had started a dance team, and she decided to start one at Caleb’s Creek.
The enthusiasm was definitely there. When she invited interested students in kindergarten through fifth grade to come to the gym one Friday morning before school started, 72 boys and girls showed up.
She had a smaller group in mind. Everyone was so excited after participating in the tryout dance, though, she decided to see whether – with the help of a number of teachers and parents – she could work with everyone.
One moment that made a big impression was seeing some of the students teaching the tryout dance to other students at recess.
To make it all work, they had to split the dancers into two groups. About a dozen teachers and parent volunteers worked with the dancers. The number of participants grew over time, and, at one point, the dancers were recognized as the “Best Performing Group” in the Kernersville holiday parade.
“We were just there to have a good time,” she said.
Of course, the coronavirus pandemic meant the temporary end not only to hugs but also to live performances.
“It was heartbreaking,” Ijames said.
As for her responsibilities as Instructional Facilitator, they include passing along what everyone needs to know from the district and state.
“I am the liaison,” she said. “I love working with teachers to together impact kids. I believe it is about relationships.”
She also does bus duty, helps with testing, and does whatever else comes up.
She thinks of herself as a jump-in “Where do you need me?” person.
One thing she particularly enjoys is problem-solving with teachers. If a student is having difficulties, they might explore together what the source of that could be.
All that means that, during the course of a day, she interacts with a lot of people.
“I easily talk with 35 staff members a day,” Ijames said.
Which is just fine with her.
“I love to be around people,” Ijames said.
Amy Carter Bland is the Assistant Principal Caleb's Creek.
“Not only is she a talented educator, she truly cares about people,” Bland said.
“She makes time in her day for everyone that needs her time and attention. She is always running and somehow seems to balance it all. From testing, to instructional support, to putting out other fires when we are overloaded, she is always looking for ways to help the total school program.”
“She has such a kind heart and we are so blessed to have her as our Instructional Facilitator.”
Maggie Heelan teaches third grade at Caleb’s Creek.
“Shelby is the kindest and most-giving person I know,” Heelan said.
“She wears many hats throughout her days in our building and she wears them all well. I have had the privilege of working closely with her the past couple years. Shelby is the type of person who will sit in her office with you for hours after school, without a second thought, bouncing around ideas and building big plans to help our students.”
“She will do anything for us here at Caleb’s Creek and I feel lucky to call her my friend and extremely supportive Instructional Facilitator!”
When she’s not working, Ijames like to spend time with her immediate and extended family.
And she likes going places.
“I love to travel,” she said.
With family or friends, she has been to such places as the Bahamas, Alaska, and southern California.
Sports are still a big part of her life.
Her father played football for Wake Forest and she grew up going to games.
When she picks up a children’s book to read, she likes fractured fairy tales.
On her to-do list is writing a children book of her own one day.
Because she likes a life that is bright and cheerful, Ijames likes to wear clothes that are bright and cheerful.
Jayne Thompson teaches second grade at Caleb’s Creek
“Caleb's Creek is blessed to have Shelby Ijames,” Thompsons said.
“Her title is Instructional Facilitator, but that just means whatever needs to be done! She is willing and able to help administrators, teachers, and students with anything.”
“The area Shelby has helped me most, is with struggling students. She knows how to drill down to find the root of a child's learning difficulties and design instruction to help meet their specific needs.”
“When the pandemic hit and we went online, Shelby quickly figured out a way to continue interventions digitally. She worked tirelessly to create engaging activities that students could manipulate online. Her work was so good, that many other schools across the district used her lessons.”
“Our struggling students kept learning because Shelby was tenacious in finding solutions. That is who she is. She will do whatever it takes to help teachers and kids succeed. I am so thankful for her help over the years.”
“She is truly deserving of this honor.”
Holly DuBois is the Media Coordinator at Caleb’s Creek.
“Shelby is the most amazing person,” DuBois said.
“She has so many gifts and many of them are strengths she also brings to the job. She is so patient, kind, and is able to see situations from everyone's perspective.”
“She is able to make everyone feel heard and appreciated and is always willing to jump in to help with anything you need.”
“She is knowledgeable about teaching, curriculum, kids, and the district. Shelby comes up with ideas and solutions to problems that are perfect for the situation and meet all the needs of those involved. She is super organized and creates schedules and documents that keep us all on the same page.”
“Her love for education and kids is always front and center. She brings all of these to the table to be the most amazing IF and friend we could ask for!”
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