Shayla Glass Receives the 2019 King Humanitarian Award
Creating Structures for Black Excellence
|Shayla Glass (r) with Michael Thompson, her
“I tried to do tutoring, chemistry learning center and it didn’t work. That was my sophomore year when I started to think about where I was headed. I needed some
pocket change, so I took on a job. I became a People tutor at LaFollette and built amazing, authentic relationships with young people. Really, raw, authentic
relationships. I had been where they were, so it was real. They could ask me anything. I was working with them on English, writing papers, applying to college, etc.
My coworkers were super supportive.”
Glass decided to apply to the School of Education and was accepted. “I knew I was where I needed to be. I felt supported and I was able to be supportive. It was a
cohort model. We build a community. I had all the support I needed and was doing what I loved to do.” She graduated in 2016, with a major in education and a minor
in English and creative writing.
In January of 2017, Glass joined the Verona School District, teaching 7th grade Language Arts and Social Studies at Badger Ridge Middle School. Glass has a
personality that reaches out to you and holds you close, then turns you around to see yourself. So, it isn’t hard to imagine being her student.
Since arriving in Verona Schools, Glass has not let much grass grow under her feet. Along with fellow educator Dominique Ricks, who worked with her in Verona
and is now teaching in Middleton, Glass co-founded the Black Equity Council. Based on work that Ricks was doing while in graduate school, the two forces came
together to address the inequities they found in the data related to academic discipline disparities. Before Ricks departure, the pair led two professional development
sessions and now Glass is working on next steps for the council’s work.
Glass has also taken part in a strategic-planning committee at the district level. Dean Gorrell, Verona Area Superintendent, brought in Mary Fertaki to do equity work
and strategic planning. “I was a part of a focus group and I heard they were going to pick 30 people to be a part of a strategic planning committee and I asked to be
considered and was chosen.”
In addition to her work at the school, Glass enrolled in the master’s program at the UW-School of Education, with a focus on social justice. It is her goal to work
closely with teachers on their teaching practices and to have a role in curriculum development at the district level.
“In my world, ‘Authentic and Student Centered’ education is all about relationships. You must build relationships with kids. Period. I don’t care what it is. When you
build real relationships inside and outside of school and connect with them on their level, that is authentic. That is what happened when I tutored and brought me
here. That makes the teaching and instruction a lot easier. It helps me bring in culturally-responsive curriculum because I know my students.”
Glass sees herself first as a facilitator of learning, then a teacher. It is this distinction that makes her stand out in her field. Last year, she helped to bring the 100
Black Men’s Black History Bowl to Verona and she also runs the schools Circle of Support program, which is a place for Black girls at Badger Ridge to come and
share themselves and get support in return.
By Hedi Rudd
When it was announced that Shayla Glass was the recipient of the Dane County Emerging Leaders Award, as
chosen by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission in preparation for the King Coalition’s Annual Observance of the
life of Dr King, many tried to Google the young leader. A few leads provided a glimpse; but becoming apparent and
prominent is often work done first under the radar.
Born in Kenosha and raised in Racine, Glass came to Madison to attend the UW-Madison after completing the
People Program in her hometown.
“Now it is no longer offered. I was lucky to make it in before it was cut off or I might not be where I am today.” she
credits. She admits to not being 100 percent certain what she “wanted to be” when she first started college, but
more importantly she had to figure it out herself.
“I always knew that I liked teaching, but I wasn’t sure if that is what I wanted to do for a living. I originally planned
to go into the medical field, so I took medical-related classes. My intention coming to UW was to major in Biology
and get on the pre-med track, but I hated it. I hated labs, I hated the overly competitive nature of the hard science.
No one was willing to help when I was struggling. I was close to being on academic probation.”
“We check in with one another. We focus on specific topics or projects. I help them
navigate things they need help with. This month we will do something around Black
History. If there is a problem in the group, we are intentional. There are not many of us and
we need to find ways to get along.”
Glass was nominated for the Emerging Leader Award, by Northside Christian Assembly,
where she is the Praise Team leader.
When she is not blazing a trail for future young leaders, Glass writes romantic fiction for
We suspect that this is not the last we will hear of Shayla Glass and that her work will
bear much fruit for Dane County youth.