An Educator with an Exceptional Legacy: Celebrating Shirley Lomax
As we begin this May celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week and all the teachers who work so hard to make learning Social Studies and civics education come alive for their students, we are proud to highlight one of our long-time teaching partners: Shirley Lomax. Shirley retires this semester (for the second time!). She will be leaving a legacy of deep caring, community building, inspiration, and truly powerful teaching for all of us.
After graduating from Western Oregon University in 1975, Shirley taught in and around the Salem-Keizer region for over 35 years. She cared for students in grades 1-8, from alternative education environments to multiple subject areas. Her true love, however, remains Geography. Since 2010, Shirley has taught Western Oregon University’s Social Studies Methods for students learning to be elementary teachers. Her supervision and education of the student teachers under her care encompass so much more than the traditional professor. Because so many of her students are financially struggling, Shirley’s care for her student teachers goes beyond the classroom. She brings a full hot dinner to each class she teaches – her crock pot chili, and Taco Tuesdays are deliciously famous! In providing nutritional and physical sustenance for her students, Shirley has for decades modeled for all of us the true nature of social-emotional learning as well as being truly responsive to her students’ needs.
Shirley has been connected to Civics Learning Project for decades, and we have been so grateful for her contributions, collaboration, and partnership. She began working with Marilyn Cover, Civics Learning Project’s Founding Executive Director, when they served together on the Oregon Council for the Social Studies Board.
“Marilyn introduced me to the amazing and awesome programs CLP has sponsored and made available to the teachers and students throughout Oregon and beyond. I had never been able to connect in a way that made civics and government engaging and interactive until I started tuning into the lessons and ideas promoted by CLP,” says Shirley. She has been inspired by the Book Club, the Summer Institutes with their variety of themes, the weekly Current Events, and the student creativity and empowerment in programs like Project Citizen.
“The most inspiring event that I have shared and modeled with my K-8 students and my university students was when they did a Project Citizen project focused on trying to find out why the city where they lived was diverse yet the Parks and Recreation programs of the town did not reflect that same diversity. In their research, the students found the catalog of offerings for the program was only published in English. From this research project the future catalogs were translated and reached out to the whole community. That opened sports and swimming classes to all in the community. How life changing/saving, awesome and powerful is that!”
For many years, Shirley has invited Civics Learning Project to visit her Elementary Social Studies Methods classes to share with her college students about how to engage their students around Civics. “CLP shares essential knowledge for all teachers but it is a guiding hand for assisting new young teachers develop responsible future citizens who will value and preserve democracy,” says Cari Zall, Senior Program Manager at CLP. “I am lucky to have been able to visit many of Shirley’s classes and witness the way she guides new teachers. Shirley’s students become exceptional teachers because of Shirley’s investment into their learning and to their lives.”
This last month when she could no longer meet with her student teachers in person and provide them with a hot meal, Shirley worried for them and the loss of experiencing how to nurture and grow with their own students. When she logged in with them through Zoom last week, they chatted about missing their elementary students in the classroom. Thinking of ways to compensate for that loss is not easy. But Shirley had already thought of that. She’d sent each of her student teachers their own little potted plant to care for and nurture while they worked from home. Watching as each student teacher held up their little plants to show how they sat right next to them as they worked, Cari couldn’t think of a better example of how Shirley Lomax teaches the best part of education: love.
Congratulations on your retirement, Shirley. We are so grateful for you, and we will endeavor to follow in your footsteps and carry on your legacy!