Extra, extra: GRC journalism teacher recognized for excellence in teaching

Published 11:12 am Thursday, March 2, 2023

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Looking at the wall of Bourbon County High School’s gymnasium, Shanda Crosby – a member of the Lady Colonels’ first girls’ basketball team – recognizes her name mentioned for individual accomplishments.

In Winchester, the Paris native is more often recognized as the George Rogers Clark High School journalism teacher.

Others are taking notice too.

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Crosby was recently named an Excellence in Teaching Clark County Public Schools High School Representative by Campbellsville University.

The award recognizes distinguished educators from all over Kentucky and has been given to over 3,000 recipients since 1987.

The honor was first announced on GRC Smoke Signals Student Media’s Facebook page.

“I was humbly surprised,” Crosby said. “I was with my students, and [Principal] Keene and the assistant superintendent came in and announced it in front of my class. I was completely shocked.”

Crosby came to teach journalism after an unconventional path.

The athletic enthusiast dreamed of becoming the first female Harlem Globetrotter or a sportswriter when growing up.

She would go through school alongside Tom Leach, the voice of the Kentucky Wildcats and host of “The Leach Report.”

“We used to write sports together in Paris,” Crosby said.

When the latter, world-traveling sports team option was no longer viable, Crosby went to Eastern Kentucky University and worked on the newspaper while studying journalism and English.

She ended up getting her first full-time writing position with the Winchester Sun.

Crosby’s writing focused on additional areas outside of sports throughout college and her initial job.

“When I got hired, I had to write all kinds of stuff,” she said. “In college, I was. an intern for the Richmond Register, and I covered the legislature. I liked writing in general. It didn’t have to be sports. When I got into feature writing and personality profile writing, I really ended up loving that.”

Over time, Crosby would work other jobs – such as marketing and public relations with East Kentucky Power Cooperative.

At this point, she was also focused on raising her family while freelance writing.

However, a call in 2005 from then-George Rogers Clark High School Principal John Atkins sparked a change.

“He said, ‘Smoke Signals hasn’t been a thing for a while. We want to get it revised,’” Crosby recalled. “He said, ‘I know you’re freelancing. Would you come up and just talk with our journalism classes and help teach them how to get a newspaper out?’”

Agreeing to do so, Crosby started coming to the school a few times weekly, eventually leading to renewed interest in the publication.

“We actually published an 11×17 folded newspaper in December 2005 that we titled Smoke Signals, and the kids wrote”, Crosby added. “I was just on contract with the board of education at that time and was still doing my freelance career. We put out an actual newspaper in [approximately] January 2006.”

Success happened quickly, with several more newspapers being published.

While Crosby had prior experience teaching high school youth at Calvary Christian Church, former George Rogers Clark High School Principal Gordon Parido and librarian Lisa Johns then played a role in encouraging Crosby to go into teaching full-time.

“She told me some things that gravitated me toward thinking of the idea,” Crosby added. “My kids were getting older, and my son was getting ready to go to college, and I thought, ‘Okay, well, it might not be a bad thing.’”

Before long, Crosby was hired by Parido in July 2006 to be a journalism and English teacher, eventually returning to school to get a master’s degree in teaching.

Over the years, Smoke Signal Students Media has grown from its original 11×17 newspaper edition to include a website, video production, social media channels and more.

It recognizes athletic achievements and offers opinion pieces, feature stories, local entertainment and more.

It’s been recognized by former Winchester Mayor Ed Burtner and current Mayor JoEllen Reed.

Yet for Crosby, who has had many students for all four years of their high school education, the relationships mean the most.

“By the time they graduate, we know each other really well,” she said. “We work together to produce a product. It’s humbling to me.”

Alums of Smoke Signals Student Media have gone on to work for organizations such as the Winchester Sun, the Louisville Bats minor league baseball team, Shriners Hospitals for Children, and even the New York Times.

While happy to receive the reward, Crosby – who has taught multiple students from the same families – emphasizes that the students make the work possible and enjoyable.

“Any award that I would ever get would be shared with all the students who’ve come through here. This really has nothing to do with me. This reward is theirs”, Crosby said. “These relationships mean so much to me. The texts and calls that I’ve gotten since that Facebook post went up from students that I haven’t seen in years. It means a lot.”