When it comes to challenges, Sheena Boyle has always jumped in feet first. Whether she’s making her way onto the Dean’s List, coaching the Waterbury Knights Cheerleading Squad, or graduating from the five-year Integrated Bachelor’s/Master’s Program through UConn’s Neag School of Education, Boyle has always welcomed a challenge.
But she says she hasn’t done it alone. Instead, she credits the teachers who supported her along the way. These teachers have been role models, she says, who have fostered a passion in her to inspire children to be the best they can be, no matter what odds they face.
Growing up in Waterbury showed Boyle the types of hardships many children face in an urban setting. But it also showed her the crucial role teachers play in children’s development and education. Boyle says she had too many role models to count.
One of them was a woman named Isabelle Nunes, whom she met at the age of 10. “Ms. Nunes showed me that not all teachers are just there to make you learn straight from a book,” says Boyle. “Teachers can be warm and personable, with a real interest in the children that they mentor.” Boyle was inspired by Nunes’ passion for the children she worked with.
A student in the five-year Integrated Bachelor’s/Master’s Program at Neag, Boyle has a double major in English secondary education and English literature. This semester, she has also been a student teacher at East Hartford High School, a position she has tackled head on. “I feel like I have a strong rapport with the children that go to EHHS because of being brought up in an urban setting myself,” she says. “I feel like I can relate to them.”
It’s the kids that make the job worthwhile, she says, adding that they have diverse needs, and adapting to those needs is the key to success in working with them both as individuals and collectively.
Boyle’s other activities at UConn have included the cheerleading squad, the Teacher Education Student Association, and the Black Student Association. She has also remained active in the Waterbury community, coaching the Waterbury Knights Cheerleading squad and volunteering for the NAACP, Grace Baptist Church, and Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Boyle graduated this May with her bachelor’s, and will continue the five-year program as a master’s degree student in the fall.
Her advice for Neag program hopefuls? “Join every program that you can – really get your hands dirty,” she says. “Don’t be afraid to jump right into anything that can increase your experience. Don’t be afraid to loosen up, be goofy, and have fun.”
(Special note: Sheena Boyle was also recently recognized with a Alma Exley Scholarship.