The Revealing Reality Struggling Readers Face within the U.S. Education System

In this episode of Empower Students Now, host Amanda interviews her sister Shelly Gonsalves, who opens up about her lifelong struggle with reading and learning difficulties. Shelly recounts her early educational challenges, the lack of support she faced, and the emotional toll it took on her self-esteem. Despite these obstacles, she persevered, exploring various career paths from graphic design to welding, and ultimately finding her place in law enforcement. Shelly’s story is one of resilience and determination, as she now uses her experiences to advocate for children with similar struggles and to inspire others through her volunteer work and creative pursuits. The episode is a touching testament to overcoming adversity. But, it is also reveals the heart breaking reality of what happens to struggling readers in a system not built to support them, or their teachers.

Teachers are NOT the Problem, They are Part of the Solution

We are losing qualified teachers at a staggering rate. But, to be clear, teachers should never be blamed for the teacher turnover problems our country is facing. The shortage of teachers in America and the decrease in college students seeking a teaching career is a multifaceted and complex problem. 

The Teacher Shortage Crisis Series

In this limited podcast series, we discuss exactly what got us to this crisis point in the U.S. education system. Click the links below to be directed to that part of the series. We recommend listening in order. 

1. Pay Scales for Teachers are Oppressive and Outdated

2. A Discussion with a New Teacher Who Chose to Leave the Profession

3. The High Cost of Becoming a Teacher

4. How Red Tape is Exacerbating the Problems

5. Outsourcing Teacher Expertise to Canned Curriculum

6. An ESL Teacher’s Stand Against Canned Curriculum and the Shocking Consequences

7. True Educational Equity Reforms Aren’t Happening and the Repercussions are Severe

8. Gender Equity Issues in K-12 are Undervalued and Neglected

9. Courageous Teachers Speak Out Against a Serious Problem Being Overlooked in K-12 Schools

10. Forgotten Narratives from the Frontlines of the Reading Wars

11. The Revealing Reality Struggling Readers Face in the U.S. Public Education System

12. Our Public Education System is in Crisis and the Solutions are Obvious

Stay tuned for the last few episodes wrapping up this limited podcast series!

In this series, Trina, along with myself, and many other educators from diverse backgrounds will explain the many layers of what is really going on. The shortage of special education teachers and math teachers is impacting schools (especially in low-income urban areas) tremendously. But, it’s important for teachers to understand the extent of this crisis. We are losing teachers in all subject areas. 

We want to give teachers an extensive look at this problem from teachers’ perspectives. This is so teachers listening can share this series with other teachers, school leadership, the media, and even the governor of their state. The need to examine the causes of the national teacher shortage has never been more important.


Amanda (00:00:00) – Welcome to the Empower Students Now podcast, a podcast about equity, neurodiversity, mindfulness and student engagement. There’s a lot that needs to change in our education system. The good news is teachers have the power to make these changes now. I am so excited that I have a really special guest today., like super, super special. My sister is here. Shelly Gonsalves is in the room with me. Will not in the actual room with me, but is here on the recording with me., and I am. So I feel just really honored and like, grateful that you are willing to come on here and talk about such a vulnerable topic and to just your bravery and sharing your story,, around how challenging reading was,, for you and probably still is., and I’m so eager to hear from you, Shelly, about this topic., yeah. And we’ll just kind of talk and see where this conversation goes. Where you want to start, Shelly, and what you would like to say?

Amanda (00:01:26) – , I definitely kind of want to save where you are now for the end, because I’m just so proud of you and everything that you’ve done. And just the success that you’ve had in your life is just so. I just feel proud. I’m your big sister and I feel really inspired by your story. So could we start from the beginning? Maybe, like, what do you think? Where do you want to start? Because my first question is, what’s your earliest memory of learning to read? So what do you think?

Shelly (00:01:55) – Yeah, I think the biggest thing where it all probably start is elementary school is when I remember,, shortly after we moved to Washington State. I remember my teacher, my elementary school teacher, Mrs. Cook,, wanting to get me evaluated. And I remember that moment more than anything, like the disappointment or. I don’t know, I don’t want to say disappointment because that’s not the right word., more of, like, it just seemed like there was a huge weight that was put on our family.

Shelly (00:02:28) – Right? Like the I remember,, mom and dad and like, they, I think they were just lost and they weren’t sure what to do., I remember Mrs. Cook being very supportive, but., I don’t know. I think probably I want to say it was an elementary school, but I can’t remember what grade we were in when we moved to Washington. I want to say maybe it was first grade.

Amanda (00:02:54) – I well, I was I remember leaving Guam in fifth grade.

Shelly (00:02:58) – Okay.

Amanda (00:02:59) – So I think you must have been in third.

Shelly (00:03:03) – Yeah, that would be right. That would be right because. Yeah, that sounds about right. So I mean, wow, okay. That’s interesting. Why are because that’s so late now, you know, like that it wasn’t found sooner. Yeah. Right.

Amanda (00:03:23) – Well, third is when. Yeah. You if you’re not reading at grade level by then you’re going to have a really hard time the rest of your school career.

Shelly (00:03:33) – Yeah. So I remember that,, and, you know, we would always read in class together, like together as a class.

Shelly (00:03:42) – And what I loved about what I remember the most about Mrs. Cook is that she never pressured me to read out loud in, in class., so I remember that. And, I mean, that’s pretty much it. And then at home with, you know, Mom and Dad, they got that Hooked on Phonics program, right? And it was I hated it, I hated it, and I was like, I remember the commercial saying, Hooked on Phonics worked for me. And I’m like, no, it did not. It was awful. I hated that thing. And I remember because, you know, it was like a big plastic booklet thing with all those cassette tapes. And it was just so I hated it so, so much. And then like going forward through my educational as we were going forward,, the next thing, if anything, I feel like I adapted by not trying to draw attention to myself. Right. Like not making any problems in the classroom. Not that I’m not kind of a person, but,, I just remember kind of just falling back, right? Like, okay, if I don’t make any trouble, maybe no one will notice me or anything like that.

Shelly (00:04:58) – , now, in the middle school, middle school was awful. I had some awful teachers that I felt they saw me as a burden, and they didn’t want to deal with me. Right. And,, there were some times where they would humiliate, humiliate me in front of,, the class. I remember very much. And it’s funny because I wrote a report about this in high school,, about the teachers saying you have to read. And I’m like, okay, I didn’t want to, but she’s like, no, you have to read. And so I started reading and I, I still to this day, I can picture the whole classroom in my head right now where my teacher was sitting, where my classmates were sitting and me struggling to read and,, my classmates laughing at me. And then I got mad, right? I got really mad. And then I got in trouble for it. I was sent to the principal’s office., and then I know I had, like, some kind of detention that I had to do, like during break or recess or whatever we were doing in middle school.

Shelly (00:06:07) – , so, yeah, it was it was just it was awful, I mean. I. I hated school so much. Like a put aside. Like all the awkward stuff that you go through, like in middle school and high school and stuff, but that just added more to it. And then,, and then going into the special ed classes that we were and we like, you know, it was like. I keep thinking, like they just put all these kids in this place here because they don’t want to deal with them in the classroom, right. And I mean. And I say this stuff because not to say that all my teachers were awful. They weren’t. It’s just I felt like they just didn’t know what to do with me. And so it was best like, okay, we’re just going to put Shelly over here in the corner and somebody else can deal with her. And. Are. I know that I carry this like burden. Like I never want to be a burden on anybody because I experienced that so much.

Shelly (00:07:16) – ,, in school, this was never at home. Like with Mom and dad. They did everything that they could for me, but it was just. Yeah. My teachers. It’s just so funny because as we got further up in high school, like all the teachers who loved you hated me.. And didn’t want me in their classroom. And so it. It is what it is. I mean, I want to say that the teachers that impacted me the most through school were all my art teachers. Well, they were all very,, supportive and,, would give me pretty much free range on whatever I wanted to do in art class, pretty much., anytime I had a free period, that’s where I wanted to go.. But like, I, I’m just trying to think of people who actually sat down and actually took the time to work with me. It was not very many. It was more of like, okay, we gotta we’re just going to push these people forward.

Shelly (00:08:21) – We’re just going to push these kids forward.. I mean, I didn’t know what what the problem was, you know, because all they did was just like, oh, she has a learning disability. What does that mean? You know. Did they tell you that? Yeah. They said I had a learning disability. That’s what they categorized it as. And what did you.

Amanda (00:08:45) – When you were in third grade, do you remember? Did they tell you that then?

Shelly (00:08:50) – , I don’t know if they told me that then, but I know that that’s what’s that’s always what I’ve been told. And I had a friend one time asked me like, well, what exactly does that mean? And I’m like. I don’t know. Yeah, except that I struggle reading and I struggle with numbers in math, you know? So,. Yeah, I, I’m not sure.

Amanda (00:09:14) – Well, in memory. Right. Like.

Shelly (00:09:16) – Yeah. Memory. Yeah, that.

Amanda (00:09:17) – Do you remember specifically what was hard about reading, like, could you you you just told the whole story from beginning to end so fast.

Amanda (00:09:27) – So I just want to kind of unpack some of it. Yeah, a little bit.. And also. You know, hearing you talk about this, it definitely does. Bring up a lot of guilt in me, because I do feel like I was one of those people that you steered clear of. Like, if I just be quiet and, you know, no one will notice me. And like, Amanda won’t, you know, like, explode at me or be mean or, I don’t know, like, I just was not a supportive sister at all. I was definitely not one of the people who was there for you, you know? I mean, and that was one of the questions that I asked.. You know, like who was there for you? Who supported you through all of this hardship? And you, you mentioned the word disappointment, but you didn’t. You didn’t when you when you when this first all came about in third grade. I wonder if you remember before that, too.

Amanda (00:10:29) – I’m sorry. I’m asking a billion questions, but do you remember what was hard about reading, like even before they started talking about you getting evaluated or whatever? And then while you were being evaluated, do you remember what was hard? And and I don’t know, I’m just wondering about specific specifics.

Shelly (00:10:46) – Okay. So I remember because I felt like when I was learning reading, it was a lot about memorization, right? Like memorizing the words. And I struggled with that a lot. And then being able to figure out what this word says. Right. Do you remember people.

Amanda (00:11:05) – Explicitly teaching you phonics, like besides the Hooked on Phonics? Do you remember at school teachers teaching you that like in kindergarten first grade are I?

Shelly (00:11:15) – I want to say that they were, but I, I don’t know, the biggest thing was like memorizing. I remembered memorizing a lot in Guam. Yeah. And then when we came to Washington, then it was something different, which might have been the phonics part of it.

Shelly (00:11:30) – Right? We moved around a lot.

Amanda (00:11:32) – I mean, I also remember that that it was kind of chaotic. Yeah. And I remember a lot of memorizing too. I don’t remember anyone ever teaching me phonics, like this word or this letter and this letter together make this sound.

Shelly (00:11:45) – I don’t really remember that either. So that’s that’s I mean, if you’re thinking that and I’m thinking that that’s probably not what’s happening or what was happening, I don’t.

Amanda (00:11:54) – Think it was because we were going to school. And like when we were that age, it was like the late 80s, early 90s. And that’s when workshop was really big, where you have a community of readers and you’re just, you know, you’re learning reading through osmosis, kind of like. I mean, and it was kind of more of a liberal leaning idea that, you know, you have this beautiful classroom library, you know, with all these engaging books, which is really important, of course, giving kids engaging books. And I want to talk about that, too, because I remember at one point when I was in college, when we were older, you were reading a really big, huge book.

Amanda (00:12:37) – But let’s keep talking about,, so you just remember learning to memorize your memorizing words.

Shelly (00:12:45) – I remember reading a lot together in class. I do remember that a lot. And,.

Amanda (00:12:52) – But not phonics. I don’t remember that either.

Shelly (00:12:54) – I don’t really remember phonics, but I know I hated it. I know for.

Amanda (00:12:58) – Hooked on Reading that program was that.

Shelly (00:13:00) – Phonics? Hooked on phonics is what it was called. It was called Did It.

Amanda (00:13:05) – What did you hate about it?

Shelly (00:13:06) – I think it was probably because it was like, you have to do this all the time, Shelly. Like you have to do this. Yeah.

Amanda (00:13:13) – It was like you have a learning disability now, so you have to have this huge kit in the living room. Do you feel do you feel like maybe you were embarrassed?

Shelly (00:13:20) – Oh, yeah. For sure. I was definitely embarrassed. I mean, in it was. It was mostly. And this is this has nothing like guilt wise. Amanda, you are released from all of that, okay? Like it is what it was and it’s not it.

Shelly (00:13:40) – You can’t change the past, so we just have to like. You weren’t an awful sister, right? We were both very young. And believe me, there were times where you got in trouble and I got enjoyment out of it, and I feel shame for that.

Amanda (00:13:54) – Well, you don’t have to, because, I mean, that is not. How much harder did this make things for you? That easy reading came easy for me, you know? Yeah.

Shelly (00:14:06) – It did. I mean, it had an impact because it made me wonder. I’m like, well, what’s wrong with me? Why am I struggling to do all these things? Why is this so much harder for me than it is for my brother and sister? Right? Yeah.

Amanda (00:14:21) – No one was talking about that.

Shelly (00:14:23) – Yeah, and it was it. I don’t know, Amanda. I through school, I was just in survival mode. Right? I’m like, just trying to get through this terrible part of, well, not terrible part of my life, but difficult, difficult part of my life.

Shelly (00:14:39) – That was super challenging. And,, it was just really awkward in, I don’t know, I after school. Yeah. Yeah. And I mean, and teachers were awful. They were awful to me. And I did nothing right. Like I couldn’t help it. And there were so many times where they just like, no, you need to she needs to not she can’t be in my class. She needs to be somewhere else. What? Yeah.

Amanda (00:15:07) – , in middle and high school. Yeah. Wow.

Shelly (00:15:11) – Yeah, I got kicked out, but, I mean. What it was is they put me I don’t know, it was. There’s one teacher is that I remember.. She just did not like me. She was like, she. She didn’t think.

Amanda (00:15:29) – I know who you’re talking.

Shelly (00:15:29) – About when I asked questions, right. She just did not like it. I. There were so many times where I was taken out of classes. I was taking a Spanish class. I was taking out of math class.

Shelly (00:15:42) – I was taken out of science class..

Amanda (00:15:46) – Do. Do what?

Shelly (00:15:47) – To go into another class that was like lower right or whatever, whatever it is. Yeah. And it was just like they it was like I wasn’t capable or it was, I don’t know. And who knows? It could have been because of their workload and like, okay, I have to teach all these kids. I don’t have time to focus on this kid when I’ve got all these other kids that I have to take care of. We’re actually going to move her over to this. But as a child, looking in, that’s what I saw, is that I was a burden to other people. Wow. And there wasn’t really any explanation as to why that I can remember. Right. But I remember getting taken out of lots of classes.

Amanda (00:16:33) – And what were what was it like in those other what a lower classes or what what exactly was going on in there? Do you remember that I was nothing?

Shelly (00:16:45) – I was just doing my work.

Shelly (00:16:47) – There was no any extra support or anything like even in special ed. I just felt like it was. Just going through the motions, right? Like there wasn’t any additional, like, kind of support or anything like that., it was more of like. Carrying over into the next school year.

Amanda (00:17:08) – So your work like. How? How was that? Like you could. You still had to. You went. You pulled out of math class to a special lower math class where you just did your work from the regular math class. Is that right?

Shelly (00:17:23) – It was paperwork, right? Like the teacher didn’t really teach anything, right? It was just mostly all paperwork.

Amanda (00:17:29) – Wow. Oh my goodness, this is so disturbing, Shelley. So disturbing.. Yeah.

Shelly (00:17:41) – Because I remember with math, because I was in one math class, I must have not been doing well. And then they lowered me into another math class. And I remember that math class. Everybody. The teacher didn’t do anything. He just handed out a sheet and say, everybody do your math.

Shelly (00:17:59) – Here’s your calculator. You know, and I’m like, okay, and I just did it.

Amanda (00:18:06) – And how were your grades impacted? Like, I don’t.

Shelly (00:18:09) – I don’t I don’t think I got I think like CS yeah, CS and I always got A’s in art.

Amanda (00:18:16) – You, you were always trying your very very best.

Shelly (00:18:19) – Yeah. Yeah. And I mean.

Amanda (00:18:22) – I remember that you, you did work really hard. Like I feel like what I remember is you, you were up a lot with mom and dad doing homework. Yeah. You know, like, because you were not only working hard at school in these classes, they were pulling you out into. You were also coming home and doing more work.

Shelly (00:18:39) – Yeah. Yeah, there was homework. Yeah.

Amanda (00:18:42) – And then Hooked on Phonics.

Shelly (00:18:43) – Yeah. And then hooked up. Yeah. No wonder.

Amanda (00:18:47) – No wonder you hated school..

Shelly (00:18:50) – But, like, as for the special ed classes,, I remember doing computer work and there being more one on one type of stuff,, in middle school and then,, high school.

Shelly (00:19:06) – , that was a mess. But that was like a completely different school district. Right. And then moved to and then finished up high school in Cookeville. Yeah., and I remember my teacher in there, she was a lot more,, hands on,, she would read things to me, right? Like whenever there were really difficult tests, she would read me the questions.

Amanda (00:19:32) – .

Shelly (00:19:33) – And,, and that was a huge help I remember. Oh my gosh she, she was great. She was so patient and she was just doing like whatever she could do to help but like not give me all the answers you know.

Amanda (00:19:49) – Yeah.

Shelly (00:19:50) – Yeah.

Amanda (00:19:51) – So I want to I mean, you’ve talked a lot about the teachers and like what they did and didn’t do and like just kind of how that school handled the challenges that you had and, and some of the kids being bullies and, and being mean., Trina had a question that I, I want to ask you, which is how much of this do you think this how much of this struggle do you think impacted your self-esteem, ideas about yourself and just your choices in regards to education and career?

Shelly (00:20:29) – , I think it had a huge impact.

Shelly (00:20:31) – I am very insecure., I am constantly worried about being a burden to others. Or, you know, I was. I’m not so much now., but. Yeah. I’m constantly doubting my ability to do anything., to the extent of others. Or I’m like, maybe I’m not the best fit for this because of this,, because of my learning disability..

Amanda (00:21:05) – So it had a huge impact on. And then, I mean, you eventually went to technical school., how I mean that. Decision. How much of it was yours? You know what I mean? Like, what did you. How were you feeling? Like after graduating high school, you know, and, like, going through all of that and being told you you were, you know, bad at something or whatever. And I don’t know if you internalize like that it was somehow that it was your fault or something, which, by the way, it wasn’t your fault. You know, none of this was I feel like that’s what we’re trying to get across through this podcast series is like, we are victims, students and teachers of like a really dysfunctional system.

Amanda (00:22:01) – , and that’s what I was telling you earlier. Like, we feel like whistleblowers because we’re like, look, this is not working the way we’re approaching. This is not working., you know, but I guess what, I don’t know what question I’m trying to ask, but.

Shelly (00:22:18) – , so going forward, going into so, like, my next level after high school is going is the route. Okay. So the original route was for me to go to the Art Institute of Seattle. Yeah, we went and did a tour there. Right. I wanted to be a potentially become a graphic designer. Yeah., we went there. Funding was a problem. Right. Because I was I received a grant to be able to go to school. And that grant would not cover the Art Institute of Seattle.

Amanda (00:22:51) – Wow.

Shelly (00:22:52) – So then we were trying to figure out other options. And so then I looked into Bellingham Technical College to do,, the cake decorating program. Yeah, that program was. Gone.

Shelly (00:23:10) – They took it away. By the time I applied. And then the other thing was to become a welder. Right. Because my brain I. I’m good at stuff like that. I mean, I didn’t know at the time, right? Like, okay, I’ll get a blue collar job and we will just see what happens from there. And maybe eventually I can make sculptures and do things like that,, and be an artist. And,, so the funny part is, when I went to apply at Bellingham Technical College, they had someone reading me the questions that I had to, you know, fill out to get into the school.

Amanda (00:23:49) – Yeah.

Shelly (00:23:50) – Yeah. So that that was very, very unique that they were like they would accommodate that way. I mean, she wouldn’t read every question, but whenever I needed help with a word or something like that in it.

Amanda (00:24:02) – Yeah. Yeah. So by that point you were reading, it was just there were still words. You.

Shelly (00:24:08) – Yeah, they’re still words.

Shelly (00:24:10) – I don’t I still can’t figure out what it is.

Amanda (00:24:13) – Yeah. Even today, even to even today.

Shelly (00:24:16) – Yes.

Amanda (00:24:17) – You’re like, what is that word okay. And. Yeah. Yeah. So you’re still impacted by this? I mean it is I mean we’ll get to this and I want I do have a lot more to ask you. Yeah. No problem., I’m surprised about the funding because Mom and dad saved money for us to go to college so they could. Even with the grant, even with the money they saved, they still couldn’t afford it.

Shelly (00:24:40) – Well, I think it was because,, it would have, like, completely depleted what they saved. And they saved more money with you than they did with me.

Amanda (00:24:49) – Yeah. Because the economy or something, I remember that. Yeah. Well, and I ended up even having to pay out of pocket and take on some debt… To, to go to the teaching school that I went to, I paid for that myself and I ended up in like,, I don’t even know like $60,000.

Amanda (00:25:08) – I mean that’s nothing compared to what people are now in debt to, but. And that took a long time to pay off. I think I only paid that off like six, seven years ago or something.

Shelly (00:25:17) – Wow. Yeah, I.

Amanda (00:25:19) – Know,, so the welding, you went the welding route., and I mean, I know this story, but,, I guess here’s another question from Trina I love Trina. Questions I sent I emailed them to you., but she said, how much? Or,. And you didn’t really speak to the ideas about yourself. Like, did you internalize that? I mean, I know you said that you felt like you didn’t want to be a burden to anyone.. It’s just really interesting. Like I didn’t know that. Like I didn’t know that that was something that you kind of internalized from this whole experience. And you talked about being insecure and maybe feeling. Yeah, like. Inadequate or like you’re not smarter. And and Trina, you know, she really wants to reiterate that anyone everyone can learn to read if they learn early and they learn like.

Amanda (00:26:19) – The science of reading really like very explicit instruction and phonics. And all the children in the classroom are, you know, doing it, you know, and I don’t think we got that, you know, in kindergarten first and second, maybe we got the ABCs. But the blending of the letters and the reading of the words letter by letter, you know, and all the weird words with., our language, our English language. I don’t I don’t feel like. I feel like we missed the boat. Both of us. Yeah. Somehow I got through unscathed because I just had this, like, kind of natural ability to read, which a lot of kids do. Right? But a lot of kids don’t. And you have two beautiful daughters who you’ve watched Learn to Read. And what was your experience like watching them learn to read?

Shelly (00:27:09) – I was scared. I was afraid because I was like, okay. I really struggled at school. There was a lot of fear, actually, because I was like, even before we had kids, I was always afraid that like, well, what if our kid has the same issues that I have? And there was a I mean, there was a while when,, one of the girls were like, they kept messing up the B’s in the D’s and the P’s, and, you know, I’m like, oh my gosh, no.

Shelly (00:27:42) – I was like, I was scared, I was scared. I’m like, oh, I don’t want them to have to go through what I went through. And, I’m completely transparent with them about it., and, you know, I explained to them and there’s, there was one time I was reading and Kinsey comes up to me and says, mommy, do you want me to read that to you?

Amanda (00:28:04) – Oh, I’m like, oh, thank you.

Shelly (00:28:07) – You know, because I was getting emotional because I was. And it’s hard because even raising my girls, I can’t just sit down and read with them. Right? Like it’s embarrassing for me now that I am at my girl. My oldest is at fourth grade, and I feel like that is the reading level I’m at is fourth grade reading level. And it’s embarrassing. It’s so embarrassing.

Amanda (00:28:32) – Today.

Shelly (00:28:33) – Yeah, yeah, because Kinsey, she comes home with these spelling words and I’m like, I have no idea what what what that word is.

Shelly (00:28:42) – I Google Translate is like my best friend, right? Like, I use that program so much to be able to hear the word, because I cannot figure out what this word is.

Amanda (00:28:53) – And you’ve said that you’ve. I mean, you’ve basically come to identify with the diagnosis of dyslexia. Yeah. Right.

Shelly (00:29:04) – .

Amanda (00:29:04) – Yeah.

Shelly (00:29:05) – Yeah. I mean and I haven’t been like officially I it’s a long process from, from what I’ve seen. But I’m like I see symptoms of it and I’m like I feel like I check off a lot of those things.

Amanda (00:29:19) – Well you know, one of them is being highly creative and artistic.

Shelly (00:29:23) – Right. Yeah.

Amanda (00:29:24) – Did you know that the dyslexia is associated with that? Yes.

Shelly (00:29:27) – Yes, yes.

Amanda (00:29:29) – Yeah I mean that’s amazing.

Shelly (00:29:31) – Yeah. I mean and I’m not and I, I’m like I’ve come to terms with that. I’m in a much better place about these struggles, and I’m way more open about it than I ever was before. And I feel like that was a huge release.

Shelly (00:29:45) – Right. Like letting that go just help me. So it wasn’t like a big scary monster that I hid away from everybody that. Yeah, you know, it’s something that I was able to I’m able to openly talk about and I’m not embarrassed about it anymore. And if people decide to judge me on it, that’s on them, not on me. Right. And so I’ve come to,. An acceptance of it. And then the wonderful thing about humans is that we adapt, right? And luckily we have technology today that helps with that, or at least with me, I’ve come to adapt to,, all the scenarios that I come across..

Amanda (00:30:29) – I feel like you read gone with the wind, or there was like a point when I was like.

Shelly (00:30:33) – Oh, Amanda. No, I totally gave up on that. That is so funny. Yes, I try to, because I love the movie, but I was like, nope. But I was in Miami. The way Miami talked just was too hard for me to.

Amanda (00:30:46) – Try to read.

Shelly (00:30:47) – So I gave up because it’s like broken, broken English, right? Yeah., and so.

Amanda (00:30:54) – Oh, I.

Shelly (00:30:56) – But we have audibles now, so I can listen to it.

Amanda (00:30:59) – Yeah. So you listen to a lot of audible now, like. Oh yeah.

Shelly (00:31:02) – So yeah. So what I do is I listen, to audible and I also have the book in front of me too. Right. So I’m reading along with it and then, you know,, I also have a hard time focusing. So if there’s a whole bunch of things going on in the background, I can’t focus on what I’m reading or what I’m doing. Yeah, right, I get that. So yeah. So it’s it’s really hard for me to,, focus in on what I’m actually trying to accomplish. I feel bad for my girls because there are so many times where they’re like, mommy, mommy, mommy. I’m like, stop. I’m measuring something. I need to focus so I don’t mess up.

Shelly (00:31:42) – , like, because it’s and like, I don’t I have a numbers problem too. Like, I just struggle with numbers and math, like, I don’t know. I know there’s something. It’s called something, but I don’t know what it is.

Amanda (00:31:56) – It’s dyscalculia. I pronounce it wrong all the time, but., dyscalculia. I don’t think I’m saying it right, but yeah, I think I have a little bit of that, too. Eric, always. He makes fun of me because I can’t my mental math. And I do think it’s kind of related to ADHD because ADHD is short term memory problem. Like you can’t keep a lot in your memory for the short term, right? Like in math, you need a lot of short term memory.

Shelly (00:32:26) – Yeah. And what I’ve seen about like dyslexia and ADHD go hand in hand.

Amanda (00:32:33) – Yeah. Endless. Caligula.

Shelly (00:32:35) – Yeah, yeah. So it’s just interesting because. I don’t know, it’s it’s weird because I, you know, I thought about it a long time ago.

Shelly (00:32:44) – I’m like, was the fact that I’m not able to read to where I could potentially have anything to do with us moving around, right. Going from one education system to another education system.

Amanda (00:32:58) – Yeah, we moved around a lot. Yeah. Do you think it was?

Shelly (00:33:03) – I don’t know. I’m not sure, but I thought I did think about that, but, I mean, I don’t remember enough. About it..

Amanda (00:33:13) – Well, I mean, we were in the same schools, you know, and I think, you know, we’ve talked about dad, his troubles with reading. He’s been pretty,, he’s.

Shelly (00:33:27) – Been open about it.

Amanda (00:33:28) – Transparent about. Yeah. How reading has been really hard for him, too. And that he’s really wanted to read. And he he’s so funny. He’s always reading these biographies about presidents and stuff. No, he’s listening to him. He’s listening to us. Yeah. And like, he really, you know, he wants to read. He wants to learn.

Amanda (00:33:46) – So do you. Yeah. You understand the value of reading. But yeah. Just to have it be such a struggle to like. I don’t know. That is very, very challenging. I think especially for like a person’s self-esteem, you know, like self-worth. Yeah., and yeah, I think there are many, many, many I know there are many, many students in our education system that are that can’t read still, you know, and they struggle to read for many, many reasons. And it is impacting their entire lives, you know, like how well they do in school, their self esteem, their, you know. And it sounds to me like you have overcome a lot. And so what I want to know is like, how how did you. Hi. You seem okay. You know, and I don’t think that a lot of kids are after an experience like this. And did you? I also like, did you notice a gender inequality in the like? Because I think you did right with.

Amanda (00:34:55) – I remember boys and girls that were in bed and like that were.

Shelly (00:34:59) – Well, I mean, there were. I’m just trying to think like in middle school. I remember there being two girls.

Amanda (00:35:09) – . How many boys?

Shelly (00:35:11) – The majority of them are boys, but it’s like it was a huge range of disability, right?

Amanda (00:35:18) – Did you know each other’s disabilities?

Shelly (00:35:20) – , no, it wasn’t something, but, I mean, some were more severe in, like, physical, physical disabilities. Yeah.,, I mean, I still see some of these guys that,, I went to, I was in special ed with today. I still see. Yeah. Yeah.

Amanda (00:35:40) – You know what happened to them?

Shelly (00:35:42) – , yeah., I mean, they’re still, like, working people, right? I don’t know their personal lives, but I still see them around town.,, and I’m like, yeah, I was in special ed with them, or I was in special ed with her or whatever.

Amanda (00:35:58) – Do you talk to them?

Shelly (00:36:00) – , I, I have, because I’ve actually coached their daughter.

Amanda (00:36:03) – Wow.

Shelly (00:36:04) – Yeah. Like in soccer. So. But I don’t think they remember me. Wow. Yeah.

Amanda (00:36:11) – That’s so crazy. So what about my question? How did you overcome all of this? Or did it I mean, did it? Was there like a point, a moment? Was there a person was there an experience? Did it happen like over a long period of time? Like, I don’t know, just how did you do this?

Shelly (00:36:30) – , you know, I have to give a lot of credit to Alan, my husband. Right? I mean, we were high school sweethearts, and he was just supportive and caring. And he’s like, you can do you can do this, right? And so if I were to credit anybody, it would be him, because he was always my encourager. He was always my cheerleader., he helped me grow as a person of like, don’t let people step all over you, you know, because it was happening. And then life experience and going through welding, being the only woman among a whole bunch of men, you know, I mean, that I had to toughen up, right? Like I couldn’t just be like, oh, poor me, poor me.

Shelly (00:37:15) – You have to.

Amanda (00:37:18) – Well.

Shelly (00:37:19) – I had to.

Amanda (00:37:20) – You. Yeah. You just made me realize, like, all this time that you spent in school trying to hide, you know, trying not to be a burden. And then suddenly you graduate high school and you’re thrown into this profession where it’s all men. Oh, yeah. You know, like. Yeah. What was that like?

Shelly (00:37:42) – , it was interesting., I mean,, you know, well, I mean, not to, like, stereotype, but there was a huge stereotype in the welding world, right? Like with the men, there was a lot of them had,, history, criminal history. And they were like, you know, the man’s man, right? And like, what are you doing here, woman. Type of thing. Right. What? Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Or they’re like, oh, hey, sweetheart. Or, you know, sexual harassment, right? Yeah. And so I just couldn’t let them do that.

Shelly (00:38:18) – So I had to stick up for myself and be like, no, no, you know, like, some of them would say really inappropriate things to me.

Amanda (00:38:26) – Right. Well, you’re so pretty.

Shelly (00:38:29) – So it was just,, it was really.

Amanda (00:38:33) – Give them a right to do that. So.

Shelly (00:38:35) – No, no, it was more of like,, they they just saw me as a woman. What the hell can you do? Right. But I was the only one,, in the place where I was working. Where,, I don’t. Aluminum is really hard, right? Aluminum is really hard to weld, and not a lot of men are able to do it. So I had that job, right? And it’s lighter material, but a lot of men are not good at it. So there’s a lot of woman, a lot of women who do,, welding of aluminum. So that was when I was doing that. That’s where I was. And same thing with like,, stainless steel.

Shelly (00:39:19) – I worked with that and that’s a hard one to do to.

Amanda (00:39:23) – That’s so cool. So you, like, stepped into this? Like into this powerful. Position of being like, yeah, like a strong woman who can, you know, stand up for yourself.

Shelly (00:39:38) – You think I’m this just you wait.

Amanda (00:39:40) – Yeah.

Shelly (00:39:42) – Yeah. So, I mean, it was that was like a huge, life changing experience, you know, that’s.

Amanda (00:39:48) – That’s so awesome. And I know, I knew. Yeah, that really was. And I remember all of us. We were so proud of you. You you won this like welding rodeo. Huge. Like.

Shelly (00:40:00) – Oh yeah. The sculpture we didn’t win, but we I mean, just being able to participate and it was really cool.

Amanda (00:40:06) – But you got this, like really big award thing that dad still, like, has in his office or something.

Shelly (00:40:11) – I was in the newspaper and it’s got my diploma on it.

Amanda (00:40:14) – Yeah. It’s so sweet., so I know that mom and dad like their support too.

Amanda (00:40:20) – And our and and just them, their pride in what you overcame.. Helped, I think. Yeah. That’s awesome. Yeah. And I want you to talk about your other profession. Oh, and also yeah, like you talked about the art teachers. And so tell us about your other profession. And then like, we should probably end by just talking about maybe what you think because there’s a lot of teachers that listen to this, but they’re students too, right?, you know, but like, what do you think? What what is the thing that could really, I don’t know, help boost a kid up who’s in that position? You know, like. Yeah. So I guess that’s a two part question. Where are you now? And, like, what advice do you have to teachers from? Okay. Yeah.

Shelly (00:41:12) – I,, I am in law enforcement., I, I focus on commercial vehicle enforcement., and,, you know, it’s funny because I can’t I was thinking about, like, even my training that we do,, for that agency, it makes a big.

Shelly (00:41:35) – It’s it’s a struggle even then. Like, I just went through a whole bunch of training and had to answer a whole bunch of questions. And it’s hard because I’m like, okay, this is going to take me forever to do. Everybody’s like, oh yeah, this is going to take you an hour to do. I’m like, no, this is going to take me three hours to do. Yeah. You know, so like that’s just another thing that happens in my, in my line of work is like there’s that expectation like, oh no, you have to be this way,, and do it within this amount of time. Like, I’m sorry, but that’s not what’s going to happen with me., so, you know, I’m very open about it, and, like, this is going to take me longer than everybody else, probably. That’s so awesome.

Amanda (00:42:18) – So you’re, like, advocating for yourself?

Shelly (00:42:21) – Well, yeah, because I’m no longer ashamed of it. I mean, like, of course I’ll always be a little bit, but I’m more open about it.

Shelly (00:42:27) – I’m not playing pretend well.

Amanda (00:42:30) – And that’s I feel like the job of the teachers and the parents to, to kind of help,, normalize what’s happening for kids and help them advocate for what they need.

Shelly (00:42:41) – Right. Yeah. You know.

Amanda (00:42:42) – In a confident way, in a way that is self-assured and, like, there’s nothing wrong with me. I just have some challenges. And I need, you know, these accommodations. Right.

Shelly (00:42:52) – And I think it’s totally reasonable for kids that to have those options right, in that it’s not shameful to listen to audiobooks. Right? There’s nothing wrong with that providing support for kids like that. And I mean, honestly just love on them because there’s so many that need that. Right. Like. I don’t know. Compassion, compassion and patience.

Amanda (00:43:22) – , passion patient. Yeah. Yeah. Great. Great advice. And you’re a coach.

Shelly (00:43:28) – Right? Yeah, yeah. And I, Amanda, I volunteer at the school a lot. Right? And I love it.

Shelly (00:43:36) – , and it’s not so much it I go in there saying, hey, what can I do to help you and to support you teachers, right. And I’m like, what can I do? Give me the work that you don’t want to do. So you can focus on other, other things. Right? And it’s just showing a support in that, in that. And then I’m like, I mean, of course I get to see my kids too. But then I also get to interact with these other kids. Right. And and I see them like, I know the kids that are, I don’t I don’t want to say like, different, but I don’t I don’t even know how to,, yeah, but I mean, like, I see them and I, I like, I see them and I’m like, I was you, right? And I want to be more compassionate to you because I can see how you know. In our classroom settings, like how much pressure teachers are under, right? And then like the classrooms are large and it’s I don’t know, I see that there is a lot.

Shelly (00:44:42) – It’s so funny because like with all of my feelings about,, teachers that I experience that I’ve had with teachers in the past, the fact that I’m in the school, you know, willing to help instead of being like, no, I’m not. And having a bad attitude about not wanting to support teachers. Like, it’s funny because I thought, like teacher Appreciation Day, like there’s a love hate relationship there, right?

Amanda (00:45:08) – Yeah.

Shelly (00:45:09) – , but I don’t I don’t feel that way anymore. I think teachers do the best that they can. And I mean, like, in anything, there’s always going to be good and bad apples and everywhere you go.

Amanda (00:45:21) – Yeah, yeah. Well, and just a lot of people just trying to survive, right., because our. Yeah, you’re right. The pressure and the system are not, they’re not very supportive of teachers at all., most of the time. So. Wait, you but there’s one thing that I wanted you to talk about, and that is your business.

Amanda (00:45:44) – Your. Oh, my business.

Shelly (00:45:45) – My art business. Yeah, yeah,, I paint.

Amanda (00:45:49) – Yeah..

Shelly (00:45:52) – , yeah. And it’s just a side thing that I do., eventually I would love for it to grow into something that I do in my retirement. Yeah., but, yeah, it’s definitely a passion of mine. I’ve actually been getting into a lot of videography now, too, so that’s been fun.

Amanda (00:46:11) – Oh, my gosh, that’s. I have a website to recommend to you. It cost money though, but it’s so awesome. Yeah., yeah. And I, I want to put a link to your Etsy shop too. Oh no, no let’s not. Oh why not? I love your stuff. I have your art everywhere in my house.

Shelly (00:46:29) – I know I’m embarrassed about it.

Amanda (00:46:31) – Oh, why? I’m sitting there, you’re going with like, oh, I don’t want to burden anyone. Like, come on, let’s let’s,, celebrate you and, oh, you’re creativity.

Shelly (00:46:44) – , yeah, I don’t know. Okay, so I do want to say something like, even though all this stuff has happened,, to me in the past, but all those things have made me who I am today, right? Like, I wouldn’t change any of it. Like if someone if someone came up to me like Shelly, we can fix all your problems that happened to you when you were younger. Do you want it? Now. Because I wouldn’t be who I am today. Now what can I do going forward? And I believe that those experiences is why we’re here today, right? Why I’m talking with you today. Why I am so vocal about. About it, right? Like I’m not afraid to talk about it anymore., it has also triggered to for me to do more volunteer work with children., it makes me motivated to help in the schools to support the staff and kids that are at the school. Right. Which is something I never would have thought I would have done.

Speaker 3 (00:47:53) – And,.

Shelly (00:47:55) – And I know, I know for a fact that that’s why I was in those positions is where I am today. That even though this was all negative. It’s something good now. It’s turned into something good.

Amanda (00:48:10) – Yeah. Yeah. And you have touched so many lives with your story, even through, like, you’re telling of it. And, and and just, you know, pursuing opportunities to support kids and teachers. But also I tell your story with your permission. You know, I’ve asked your permission to my students. And I feel like I have probably told every class I’ve ever had about your story. So 15. A year’s worth of kids. I don’t know how many thousands of kids that is,, that have been touched by your story, and I. I do tell it. Frequently because. It is. You know, it’s hard to,, for kids to feel like they’re the only ones, you know, and, like, I don’t want them to feel like that.

Amanda (00:49:02) – And I don’t want. I want them to see that there is a light at the end of the challenges and the hardship, you know, and like, just your story is such a beautiful one to tell because it’s an example of someone who faced so many hardships and came away better,, because of it and stronger, you know? So yeah, it’s pretty amazing. And thank you. I really, really appreciate you coming and telling it yourself here.

Shelly (00:49:31) – Yeah, it’s my pleasure. I’m so happy to be a part of it.

Amanda (00:49:36) – All right. Well, I’m going to end it now then. Unless you have anything else you want to say or add.

Shelly (00:49:40) – No. I love you, Amanda.

Amanda (00:49:42) – I love you, Shelly. You’re so sweet. And I love your kids. And I miss them.

Speaker 4 (00:49:50) – Oh my gosh.

Speaker 5 (00:49:52) – Okay, I would have pressed to stop recording.


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