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Lessons on science and life with Mr. Shea

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Lessons on science and life with Mr. Shea

North Penn High School science teacher Mr. Robert Shea offers lessons that transcend just the science curriculum.

North Penn High School science teacher Mr. Robert Shea offers lessons that transcend just the science curriculum.

Marissa Werner

North Penn High School science teacher Mr. Robert Shea offers lessons that transcend just the science curriculum.

Marissa Werner

Marissa Werner

North Penn High School science teacher Mr. Robert Shea offers lessons that transcend just the science curriculum.

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TOWAMENCIN – In the early days of their sophomore year, students dragged their feet into room C-18 and braced themselves for the dreaded year filled with photosynthesis and cellular respiration. However, as they left the halls of C-pod, they would have never expected to depart with more knowledge that wasn’t just based on the curriculum. When Robert Shea’s life was turned upside down,  a great opportunity emerged to teach his students one of life’s many lessons: to never give up.

Towards the start of his senior year of high school, it was time for Shea to take the test that inevitably defined what his future would hold for him, the infamous SAT. Holding the results in hand, he was eager to ascertain the best news at the time, only to find out he was 50 points off from a perfect score and a full scholarship to any school he wanted to attend the next fall.

“That will always be my ‘what if’. What if I put in 10 more minutes of hard work? That ‘what if’ was the difference between a half scholarship and a full ride. I don’t regret anything, because it only motivated me in an academic sense… but not doing that little bit of work hurt me in the long run,” mentioned Shea.

Shea still had an idea of what he wanted to do when he grew up, but it didn’t involve being a teacher. Shea comes from a generation of firefighters from his great-grandfather down to his Dad. He wanted to carry on the legacy of being a fireman, but his Dad always wanted him to do better than he had done in his life and knew that his son would be better off following a different path. As a young and ignorant high school graduate, he believed his father and set out for something else. His passion for teaching came as an accident, or merely, a perfect opportunity.

“In grad school, I was tutoring students on their writing, and I fell in love with the idea of teaching. I wasn’t even tutoring biology, but I only majored in it because I had gone to school for baseball and I was just good at it,” he remembered.

Shea now teaches his dream job in classrooms all over the school and teaches many different levels and aspects of biology. You would think he would be on cloud-9 right? Wrong. Not many students know what his life is like after the final bell rings. Shea is not only a teacher, but a father to his step-daughter Emily, and a husband. However, Shea’s life was turned upside down when his wife was diagnosed with cancer when she was 26. Whenever students walked into a strange silhouette occupying his desk, they knew he had more important things to do that day then teach cell reproduction. He spent a couple weeks out of the school year to be home and take care of his sick wife because frankly, he didn’t know how much time he had left with her. In the past few months, everyone’s prayers were answered when he broke the news that she is physically doing a lot better, and cancer free.

Be grateful for every moment… when someone calls, you should always answer even if you don’t want to talk to them because you just never know. School and biology aren’t the most important things in life. People just need to know they are loved and that somebody cares about them”

— Mr. Robert Shea - NPHS Science Teacher

“Be grateful for every moment… when someone calls, you should always answer even if you don’t want to talk to them because you just never know. School and biology aren’t the most important things in life. People just need to know they are loved and that somebody cares about them…you should just be appreciative for the moments you have with the people you are blessed to have in your life,” Shea recalled holding back tears.

Shea is the epitome of what it means to never give up. His motivation to come to school and teach his students far more than biology, positively reflects the type of person that every student should aspire to be someday. He leaves an impact on anyone that has the pleasure of being his student.

“He is one of the few teachers that made class something to look forward to. He cared more about his students than any material he could have taught us all year,” recalled former student Randy Garcia.

He cared more about his students than any material he could have taught us all year”

— Randy Garcia - NPHS student

Not only did students learn so much from Shea, but his students also taught him a thing or two about life that motivated him to come to work every day, despite his battles at home and hardships he still had to face everyday.

“Every time I talk to a student or teach a class, it is an opportunity to learn. [They taught me] that as a person, you have to never give up, and never judge someone because you don’t know what they have been through…people can overcome a lot, and show you the best that they can be if you just give them a shot,” said Shea.

As past students have left C-18 and new ones arrive, one thing has stayed constant: they leave being better people because of Shea. If a student hasn’t left those four walls without learning anything other than biology, they certainly were not paying attention. To never give up, even through hell and back, takes a type of grit and motivation that is acquired through experience and strength. Even though his battles in life came fast and unexpected, he will always serve as a pure role model for anyone who ever experienced challenging times that set them back.

“Just because something is hard, doesn’t mean you should give up. I teach because I never want my students to have that ‘what if’,” recalled Shea.

Someone just telling you not to give up is good advice, but someone showing you that giving up isn’t the answer impacts you so much more than you could ever expect. And thanks to Shea, all of his students, including myself, will never have that “what if”.

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1 Comment

One Response to “Lessons on science and life with Mr. Shea”

  1. Tasmia Hosneara on November 28th, 2018 2:41 pm

    Mr.Shea is an awesome teacher.He is funny and he wants us to succeed in class. Because of Shea,I really enjoyed the class and the course itself.

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Lessons on science and life with Mr. Shea