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Posted: November 29, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Teacher Profile - Shannon Buff

Government teacher feels today an exciting time in history

By Carrie Huenke/

Politics fanatic: Shannon Buff teaches government at Newton High School.

 It's been an exciting semester for Shannon Buff's students at Newton High School.
 Through lively lectures and interesting class projects, the students in her Advanced Placement politics and government classes (and in her U.S. history college preparatory classes) have spent the past couple of months exploring every aspect of the presidential election. They have discussed political opinions, the presidency, Congress, the media and underpinnings of the U.S. Constitution.
 In the days prior to the election, her students produced their own electoral maps after researching the Obama/McCain race in Newton High's computer lab. Eagerly, they collected polling data to make educated guesses on which states would turn out red or blue and then colored in their maps accordingly.
 Afterward, Buff led her classes in discussions about why the students thought certain states would vote Republican or Democrat. According to Buff, when the class later compared their maps with actual election outcomes, she was pleased to discover just how many of her students guessed "right on" with many of the states. In fact, several of her students only "missed" a state or two.
 "It's been an exciting semester because it was such a historic election," Buff said. "My students knew the enormity of what we were discussing in class. They knew it was a special time in America's history."
 Buff said she experienced some of her proudest moments as a teacher the day after the election when her students walked into class. She said there was excitement in her students' faces as they projected an awareness of the world around them.
"It was a blessing to be involved (with their learning process during such a historic election) and it had nothing to do with race or creed or anything else," she said. "Everybody knew it was a special time in history and the kids were so aware and were so tuned in."
 Her students have had other special occurrences this semester as well. In October, Buff's pupils were surprised to receive a visit from Georgia State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox. She visited Buff's classroom just a few weeks after her appearance on the television show "Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?" and taught a lesson on federalism.
 "I was really proud of how well prepared my students were," she said. "They were excited about Cox being here, but they treated it like a normal lesson and they did a great job."
 Buff serves at Newton High's social studies department chair and teaches four classes a day. Even though she sometimes stays at school into the early evening hours, she said she just can't get enough social studies. She said she even enjoys talking about it at home with her husband Bart who happens to be a social studies teacher at Eastside High.
 "We joke about it," she said. ‘We both teach the same thing, so we have a lot to talk about."
 Buff said she and her husband did not know each other in childhood, but that they grew up in the same area in northwest Georgia. They even won the same college scholarship while attending separate high schools. Their photographs ran side by side in a town newspaper a couple years before they actually met in a physics class at Dalton State College. Eventually, they discovered they were on the same career paths. As they say, the rest was "history."
 Buff said she makes it her goal in the classroom to reach out to each and every student, and works hard to prepare them for the graduation test they will take in March. As an educator, her toughest challenge is reaching the occasional student who is disinterested in the learning process.
 "It can be very frustrating when a student is not interested in succeeding when you have done everything you can do as a teacher," she said. "When that happens, it feels like a personal failure. That type of thing can really keep me awake at night. I want all of my students to succeed."
 Buff is currently working on her specialist's degree in educational leadership at Georgia College and State University. She received a bachelor's degree in social science education from the University of Georgia and has her master's degree in educational leadership from GCSU.
 "I love what I do," Buff said. ‘I want all of my students to know that I respect them, that I value them and that I will always do my best to get them to do their best."
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