Learning in the classroom is all in this family

Published 12:20 am Monday, April 26, 2010

FERRIDAY — These days, Shalonda Schiele and her three children are sharing more than just family ties. They’re all experiencing the joys and hard work it takes to be full-time students.

When The Dart landed on Doty Road in Ferriday Friday, Schiele had just picked up her 5-year-old twins, Kiersten and Kameron, and she was waiting for the bus to drop off her oldest son, 6-year-old Jordan.

Every morning, she puts her children on the school bus, and then logs onto the Internet to take online classes.

“When I say I am doing homework, they say, ‘Mom, you are on the computer,’” Schiele said. “I think if they figure it out, they will want to do their school at home.”

She started college at Southern University years ago and completed a couple of years at the university before deciding to attend Jonesville Beauty School in Vidalia.

After finishing there, Schiele said she realized that she didn’t want to be a beautician, and she spent the next four years working at Vidalia Market.

Finishing her education was put on hold after Jordan was born because she just wanted to figure out how to be a mom without having to divide her attention, she said.

Nineteen months later, the twins were born.

“It was a struggle in the beginning, with then being 19 months apart,” she said. “It was like having triplets.”

After four years at Vidalia Market, Schiele took a job at Ferriday Lower

Elementary. When her contract wasn’t renewed after that year, she saw an opportunity.

“As soon as I realized, ‘I am unemployed,’ I decided, ‘Let me enroll in school now,’” she said.

Even though she’s taking classes online, Schiele said because she’s majoring in elementary education she will have to do traditional classroom-based student teaching, and she hopes she will be able to do it in the Ferriday schools.

She has plans to specialize in special education, inspired in part by her work with her son Jordan, who is autistic.

“He was non-verbal, and with the support of my family and me, now he talks too much,” Schiele said. “I know if we can help him that much, I could do that in the school system.”

In the last year, Jordan has gone from being 50 percent verbal to 100 percent verbal. Schiele said that was in part because she made sure he would talk to communicate his wants and needs.

“Sometimes, they let (autistic children) bring you a picture, like if they want a cookie, they bring you a picture of a cookie,” she said.

“Some (autistic) children can’t repeat words, but Jordan could repeat words, and I wouldn’t accept him bringing a picture. If he could repeat ‘cookie,’ I wanted him to ask for a cookie.”

She also has those kinds of standards for herself — nothing less than her best — when it comes to her schoolwork, Schiele said.

“If I don’t think I am going to get an ‘A,’ I don’t turn it in,” she said.

As things worked out, her mother — Alberta — and her brother — Eric — are also enrolled in college.

“Right now, we’re in a race to see who will finish first,” she said.