Shipping out: How Ms. Shipman encourages students to learn differently

“Spanish is an alive language,” Spanish teacher Ms. Kelsey Shipman says. Ms. Shipman, or Ms. K, is a new teacher at the Ann Richards school. On top of teaching Spanish III and and 7th grade creative writing, she also teaches an after-school Spanish class for students who went to dual-language elementary schools.


Ms. Shipman has been learning Spanish since she was five years old, and says that her mother was a big part in why she is so passionate about the language and culture.


“I realized that she had a huge influence on me in ways I didn’t know, because she loved Mexican culture, and our house was full of talavera tiles and.… she introduced me to a lot of [Hispanic] folk singers,” Ms. Shipman said.


Ms. Shipman is also very passionate about students having study abroad opportunities to learn more about other cultures. She has studied abroad three times in her life, the first time being  when she went to Ghana in West Africa, during her sophomore year in college.


“There’s very few other ways to really figure out who you are. When you show up in another country, especially if you don’t know the language. It allows you to become more compassionate and understanding it allows you to explore your curiosities,” Ms. Shipman said. She comes from a long line of “white rooted Texans,” as she likes to say, and didn’t have a lot of support when she decided that she wanted to journey out and learn more about the world around her.

Ms. Shipman is also a very creative person and is very involved with poetry. She turned to books as a way to escape and fill up time when she was alone. During this time she began to get really interested in poetry. When she was in college and one type that really caught her attention was slam poetry. She fell in love with how you could perform it in engaging ways.


“I’ve just had a lot of reaffirming experiences with poetry,” Shipman said.


33 of Ms. Shipman’s poems have been put into magazines such as the African American Review, and a publication with poets Toni Morrison and Rita Dove, who are some of her favorites. On top of having her poems put in magazines, they’ve been placed in 60 buses around Austin. To this day, people still send her pictures of her poems as they read them during their travels.


During a study abroad trip to Bolivia, she worked on one of three published poetry books and wrote it in Spanish. She had some guidance with a mentor their who helped review her work as well.  She’s also had the opportunity to be on the public radio station in New York, where 25,000 people listened in


“You just can’t even imagine the reach that your messages have,” she explained.


When getting her master’s degree in fine arts, she worked to create an album that was released of her reading her poems to the background of jazz-funk music. She chose jazz partially because it was one of her favorite types of music, and because most of the people in her band at the time had a jazz influence.


Ms. Shipman is a very creative person and likes to think outside the box when teaching her students and you can see that represented in the ways in which she teaches her classes.  


Shipman’s teaching style is very different than some others when teaching Spanish. She teaches her students through a lot of current event related teachings, like reading articles in spanish about the hurricanes or earthquakes that happened towards the end of 2017.


“If you learn about current events and current political issues I think more students are more interested in the language because they have access to this stuff that’s happening that they wouldn’t know otherwise, and two it gives you stuff to talk about,” Ms. Shipman said.


Another thing that is different in her teachings is that she listens and cares a lot about all of her student’s mental health. She listens to her students and adjust projects to their requests like other teachers do, but she also gives her students “stress less” days. During these days they will push the tables aside and all the students will sit on the floor and play the class one of their favorite songs/music videos and discuss why it is important to them. She likes using these social emotional learning techniques so her and the students can create a better bond outside of the stressful environment school can sometimes be.


“When I see you guys suffering, and see you guys stressed out,it’s hard for me to watch that, and so if there’s one little thing you can do for the 90 minutes you come to my class, instead of doing rigorous grammar exercises or taking another test we sit around and get to know each other… I love that,” Ms. Shipman said.


Ms. Shipman also teaches another class after-school. In her after-school class she teaches 6th graders. They are learning Spanish through the three pathways that they will choose between when entering into high school; media technology, engineering, and biomedical technology.


Last semester they focused on Biomed, learning the different parts of the skeleton, various diseases, and even performing skits where they pretended that they were at a doctor’s office. Right now, they are doing engineering activities. One current project is designing a model of an object using recycled materials and then labeling all the parts in Spanish.


Ms. Shipman has also done and applied for some projects as well. Ms. Shipman applied for a Fulbright grant, which is a grant given by the government for scholars to do independent research projects in different countries for a few years.


“I applied to get a Fulbright to Bolivia to study the intersection in between activism and poetry in Bolivia,” Shipman explained. She had already been to Bolivia previously and knew some groups and organizations that she would be able to work with.


She then found out that she got into the top four candidates out of thousands of people who had also submitted. Two of those four people would go on to get the money for their project.


“I literally thought I was about to go to Bolivia. I was like I’m so close to going I’m about to get this Fulbright… my boyfriend at the time and I were like we are going to pack everything up and we are just going to go to Bolivia for two years. And then I found out one morning that I didn’t get it,” Shipman said.


After she went downstairs to tell her boyfriend at the time, he promptly told her that they were going to go get a dog. She has always wanted a dog but she worried about being a good owner towards it, and she was always traveling and didn’t think she was fully grounded enough for one.


They walked around the Austin animal shelter and made a list of twelve dogs. Shipman then said that she wanted to go back and see the dog that was Rio.


“We sat down on this bench and Rio sat down next to me and just leaned all his weight onto my leg… and my partner at the time was like, ‘I think this is your dog,’” Shipman recalled.


In a 24-hour period, she went from thinking that she was going to leave the country for two years to now finally having a dog of her own. Rio has also helped her through hard times, being a non-judgmental figure in her life if she is having a hard day. She considers her and Rio more as companions than just dog and owner.


Now, as a way to cheer her students up and help them destress she likes to bring her dog Rio to work, where he will just walk and lounge around her portable.


In all, Ms. Shipman has had a lot of accomplishments in her life, and loves teaching and getting to know the students here at ARS.


“I love teaching all girls because I get the relationship dynamics with young women better,” Ms. Shipman said.