Joe Shaughnessy graduated from Missouri State University (MSU) in Springfield, Missouri in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. During his time at MSU, he was an active part of the Chi Alpha ministry on campus, serving on the worship team, student leadership, and as a small group leader.
Following graduation, Joe began teaching fifth grade at the John Thomas School of Discovery in Nixa, which just south of Springfield. The school is specifically geared towards science and hands-on experiential learning. Joe and his students have done many exciting experiments, such as creating chemical reaction cars from scratch!
A lifelong native of the Show-Me State, Joe is married to his college sweetheart and fellow Chi Alpha alumna Mackenzie. He enjoys playing guitar, kayaking, and spending time with friends whenever he has the time. Joe shares how Chi Alpha changed his life and made him effective at reaching students who learn in his classroom.
Describe the impact Chi Alpha had on you as a student.
No short of life changing. I grew up in a religious household, but in high school I drifted away from that. However, in college I got the opportunity to start anew. It was the first weekend of school when I met my future RA who invited me to a couple of Chi Alpha events during startup week. The message Andy Estrella shared spoke to me. I was overtaken with emotion and felt led to go up for the prayer to rededicate my life.
After that night, long story short, God kept bringing in people who would pour into my life. Those people believed in me and I was blessed with some pretty amazing opportunities through Chi Alpha. Instead of correcting me, they connected with me one-on-one. I got connected with discipleship classes. I got into Chi Alpha leadership and served on the worship team. I was a leader in a small group of freshmen guys and went on a total of five mission trips during spring break and in the summer to Milwaukee, Atlanta, and the Dominican Republic.
What are some of the challenges and opportunities that come with your position?
I would say a lot of challenges come with it. Not only do you have to be a teacher, but you also have to wear many hats. I’ve had to be a counselor, a father figure, a mediator, a discipline holder, and their coach as well. It’s not just teaching; you’re getting into a bunch of positions that are tied into one.
There are opportunities as well. Every day I get to try something new with each student. Each day we have is a new start. I see teaching as my calling, my ministry, and through teaching I am able to show the fruits of the Spirit to students.
Besides the chemical car project, what are some of the other projects you have done with your students?
One of our bigger projects was a self-sustaining ecosystem that we built out of two-liter soda bottles using soil, plants, goldfish, earthworms, and pond snails. Another project was a big research project studying current environmental issues. The students try to raise awareness, see what solutions are in place, and then brainstorm solutions to that issue.
What advice do you have for Chi Alpha students who are planning on a career in teaching?
One piece of advice would definitely be to be patient. My first year of teaching was not ideal, and it was tough, but it made me a better teacher and I had to trust in that process. Another piece of advice would be to have fun and try new things. When I’m having fun, the kids are having fun. My last thing would be to remember the importance of community as shown in Chi Alpha.