Southeast Missouri State University alumna Samohya Stallons loves teaching. As a kindergarten teacher at Normandy School Collaborative in St. Louis, Missouri, she loves the excitement of making a positive difference in students every day.
“Teaching is so much bigger than me,” said Stallons. “My behavior and practices can make or break a child’s spirit and confidence around learning. It is exciting for me to work with families and do what I can to make sure they have a positive partnership with the school.”
Stallons’ dedication to teaching and her students paved her way to a nomination to the National Associations for the Education of Young Children’s (NAEYC) Young Professionals Advisory Council (YPAC).
The NAEYC is a professional membership organization working to promote high-quality early learning for all young children, birth through age eight, by connecting early childhood practice, policy and research. In 2015, NAEYC formed the YPAC to provide input geared toward strengthening NAEYC’s recruitment and retention of young professionals in the field. The YPAC helps on a number of fronts, including the development of content, shaping of strategy, planning of events and more.
“Being a member of YPAC is such an amazing opportunity to be a part of a community of people who care deeply about the education and well-being of young children,” said Stallons, who looks forward to working with the group’s diverse members. “The members include people in a wide variety of professions, all working with children, showing that NAEYC is truly focused on the whole child.”
Stallons represents the type of emerging leader in early childhood education that is a perfect fit for the council’s mission, said Dr. Julie Ray, chair of Southeast’s Department of Elementary, Early and Special Education.
“I admire the passion she has for teaching and working with students,” said Ray.
Her inspiration to teach is the children who come to school primarily to be loved, said Stallons.
“For the kids, the learning is secondary. What’s more important to them is that someone will listen to their story, take a genuine interest in them and tell them that they are valued,” she said.
Her commitment to teaching began as an undergraduate at Southeast where she first attended both state and national early childhood conferences, was an officer in the early childhood student organization, and led a college women’s Bible study group, said Ray.
Her time at Southeast helped her to build confidence, faith and relationships that have successfully and positively impacted her life, said Stallons.
“Southeast is a school with a lot of heart,” she said. “The professors in the College of Education took us under their wings and did everything they knew how to make us the most effective teachers. They built relationships with us and cared about us. That’s the first step to effective teaching.”
Stallons said she hopes as a member of NAEYC’s YPAC to continue her professional development and improve her teaching tactics and ideas.
“As a new member of YPAC, I hope to record some instructional strategies that I use and reviews of new ones that I try with my students,” she said. “I would also like to gain new insight into how to meet the needs of diverse students and to help students better self regulate to enhance their educational experience.”
Stallons wants to have a broad impact upon the educational outcome of minority students in her district, said Ray. As an African American and bilingual in Spanish, she brings skills and understandings to helping minority and dual language students succeed.
“She feels a passion and commitment to represent her ethnicity as a positive role model for students, as well as a voice for racial equality and respect,” she said.
Stallons is currently pursuing her master’s degree in educational leadership at Southeast and is considering earning a doctorate. She hopes to one day be a school principal.
“I love being in the classroom but I’ve had some pretty amazing experiences with phenomenal teacher leaders who make me excited to do that type of work,” she said. “I have become passionate about transforming school culture and climate to facilitate a healthier work environment for educators and learning environment for students.”
For Stallons, no matter where she goes, her world is better because of teaching and her students – – and the amazing things they do and say.
“I tell people all the time that I would much rather spend my time with kids than adults,” she said. “They are full of such joy, and on rough days I have 22 smiles to look forward to. The kids get to school and act like they haven’t seen me in weeks. It’s awesome!”
Stallons is supported by her husband, Benjamin, and two children, Tsoli, 4, and Kai, 2. She grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and O’Fallon, Illinois.