Okie dokie O’Shields, that’s a wrap

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Courtesy of Paula O'Shields

O’Shields working Senior Night with the graduation crew, math teacher Julie Spencer (left) and assistant principal Brandi Meeks (right).

Guidance counselor Paula O’Shields will retire this year after having served Fayette County for 31 years. 

Her teaching career began in 1990 at Fayette County High School before moving to Starr’s Mill during 1997 and 1998. O’Shields originally taught math, and taught every single math class except Algebra and AP Calculus. It wasn’t until 17 years of math had gone by that she decided to become a counselor, and has been doing so ever since. 

It might be harder, it might take longer, it may be crazy at times, but with enough patience, and trying, and redoing, and attention, you too can do the math.”

— Paula O'Shields

“I got my counseling degree thinking that would be another way to help kids if things changed,” O’Shields said. “If I wasn’t being effective as a math teacher or for whatever reason, if I wanted to make a difference that counts for something that I wanted to do, so I went ahead and got that degree.”

O’Shields has a Master’s in Math Education, a Master’s in High School Counseling, and a specialist’s degree in administration. For her undergraduate program, O’Shields went to the University of Georgia before going to West Georgia for her Masters degrees. 

All of these achievements and drive for the education field however began no place else than her high school, Screven County High School. A difficult math teacher that would leave O’Shields helplessly confused would surprisingly turn out to be a huge impact in O’Shields’ life. 

Originally, O’Shields wanted to be a history teacher because of another inspirational teacher at Screven. After realizing her chances were stacked against her being told that most history teaches dual as football coaches, O’Shields decided to go into the math field to imitate a teacher she admired and to prove she was capable of difficult mathematics.

“I’m going to go and I’m going to try to teach people that they can do the math,” O’Shields said. “It might be harder, it might take longer, it may be crazy at times, but with enough patience, and trying, and redoing, and attention, you too can do the math. You are smarter than the math.”

O’Shields and her husband got married during her second year of teaching, and right around this time before they had kids she got her additional degree in counseling to have a career secure in case she wanted to do something later on. 

O’Shields then had her children Kyle and Katelyn, and in 2007 she took Trudy Roger’s place in the guidance counseling office. The dynamic change certainly posed different perspectives of rewarding challenges for O’Shields, as now instead of getting to know the lighthearted side of students on a daily she now got to experience the heavier and deeper aspects that students were going through. 

“It’s hopefully still making a difference,” O’Shields said. “A lot of times we don’t see the difference until later on, and that’s okay. We don’t need to know the difference so long as you all turn out successfully, and productive, and are able to follow along and become productive citizens.”

Surround yourself with people you want to be like, because that’s who you’ll be.”

— Paula O'Shields

One of the biggest changes that O’Shields noted was that being a counselor is different from being a teacher in the aspect that a counselor’s job doesn’t necessarily end when the school day does. Students may come up to her at the park or a baseball game, but whenever she is needed, O’Shields is there to listen and do her job. 

No matter which position O’Shields was in, however, the ultimate thing she loved about being a teacher and counselor at Starr’s Mill was the constant interactions with the students and the livelihood they brought to each day. 

The most lively and favorite memories from O’Shields career involve both teachers and students, being rescued by a coach who closed up the stadium for graduation and O’Shields was trapped inside, or every desk, chair, drawer and other items in her classroom turned upside down by her students for a prank. 

“Surround yourself with people you want to be like, because that’s who you’ll be,” O’Shields said.

Overall one of the greatest things that O’Shields values from Starr’s Mill is the family-like friendships. The most notable example of this to O’Shields would be a time when graduation was moved last minute into the gymnasium and it ended up being the best graduation ceremony yet. 

Keep your whole self in mind, don’t challenge and push yourself just because everybody else is doing it.”

— Paula O'Shields

O’Shields is not entirely certain yet of what she would like to do after this, but she is undoubtedly looking forward to what’s to come and to spending a lot more time on family and making more friends outside of the school environment. Among all of this excitement, however, there is still a very hard-driven counselor. She is doing everything to make sure these last few weeks of school go well for everybody as well as preparing her predecessor as best as possible for the job she’s soon to leave.

“I think I’m leaving behind some good co-workers that are going to be able to bring [Meshanna Marcus] in,” O’Shields said. “I’m going to be meeting with her some, in the next few weeks, kind of teaching her… they’ll take good, good care of her.” 

O’Shields is confident with the Starr’s Mill faculty, and especially in the hands that Marcus will be in as the new counselor. The biggest word of advice O’Shields has to leave behind for anyone is to simply think of everything one has going on and how to be most beneficial to their needs. 

“Keep your whole self in mind, don’t challenge and push yourself just because everybody else is doing it,” O’Shields said. “Do what’s appropriate for you, but also leave time for you… You need time with friends, [and] you need time with family.”

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