Connections: Linking Talented Educators
Connections: Linking Talented Educators

Spotlight: Tyler Shows (MS '22)

January 17, 2023

Petal Tyler Shows high fives 1000w2

Positive childhood experiences form a responsible and thriving citizen,” says fifth grade math teacher Tyler Shows (MS ’22). “If I can be a positive influence in even a small way for my students, it’s worth every bit of the work.” Tyler joined the Milken Educator Network on October 18, 2022 at Mississippi’s Petal Upper Elementary.

Milken Family Foundation: What’s it like teaching in the district where you were once a student?

Tyler Shows (MS ’22): It’s very different from my youth, but it’s such a joy. It would be alarming to return and find it exactly the way I left it. I have loved witnessing the evolution of Petal Upper to meet the diverse needs of our students. The nostalgia factor hits me daily. I now teach in the very same room I learned in 25 years ago. It's really special to see how an organization has changed over the years, and I'm so proud of my hometown and my district.

MFF: How did you end up in education?

Tyler: My path was unorthodox, to say the least. I spent two years after college adrift, trying to find what would light my fire. It was a painful time in my life, but one positive aspect is I can now sit down with college graduates and know exactly how they feel when trying to find their place. I spent two years working for a nonprofit organization, and the experience was invaluable. I had wonderful mentors who were patient with me as I was learning and soul searching.

I eventually had a quick conversation with one of my high school coaches. He suggested education might be a good fit. That idea really gained traction in my mind. I signed up for education classes, and the rest is history. I should also mention my very first principal, now retired, who gave me a shot when no one else would.

Petal Tyler Shows classroom 1000w

MFF: Your undergraduate degree is in business and accounting. How does that relate to your work in the classroom?

Tyler: Although that path wasn’t for me, I did gain many experiences that required me to problem-solve and overcome challenges. The type of logical reasoning I learned in my undergraduate career has served me well as a teacher. Teachers constantly assess and monitor student learning, so the type of quantitative reasoning I learned in this field is invaluable. It also helped me learn to follow my own passions. So much growth has happened in my life because I’ve learned to reflect and be honest with myself and others.

MFF: What do you like about working with elementary students?

Tyler: I always envisioned myself as a secondary teacher. I fell into elementary education because of a wonderful administrative team who supported and coached me. It’s so hard to put into words how much fun elementary students are. Positive childhood experiences form a responsible and thriving citizen, I truly believe that. If I can be a positive influence in even a small way for my students, it’s worth every bit of the work.

Petal Tyler Shows colleague 1000w

MFF: Who are your role models?

Tyler: My most important role model is my first year mentor, Sarah Beth Henderson. She’s the magic behind our department. We have worked together for almost 10 years now, and she has made my entire career. Thirty years from now, I’ll still owe it all to her. Amy Clolinger and Meghan Jordan complete our team at Petal Upper. I look to them for wisdom and laughter.

My principal, Emily Branch, has been such a leader and friend to me. A simple thank you would never be enough, and there are no words to describe the impact she’s had. Luke Daniels, my assistant principal (and husband of a Milken Award winner himself!), models hard work and service each day. We taught together for several years, and it’s been inspiring to watch him evolve from a teacher to a wonderful leader. Gloria Wyatt, my first principal, gave me my first job. She and I are living proof of what a person can become when he is coached, loved, and believed in.

My math inspirations are Teresa Loper and Debbie Nobles, my high school math teachers. Both have spent decades inspiring generations of problem solvers. Their inspiration can never be measured and must be seen to be believed. I wish I had the magic words to explain to them how much they mean to me, but there are none. All I can say is what they did mattered, every bit of it.

MFF: Tell us about your first year of teaching.

Tyler: The positives far outweigh the challenges. You never forget your first group of kids, and they are still so special to me. They are in college and beyond now, and it’s a joy to see the adults they have become.

There were challenges, of course. I enjoy being knowledgeable about the field I’m in, and I had so much to learn. I credit my mentor for sticking with me every step of the way and teaching me all I know. That first positive experience shaped my career in an immeasurable way.

MS Tyler Shows Spotlight quote 1000w

MFF: You mentor new and pre-service teachers, and you host high school students from the district’s Teacher Academy. Why is this kind of mentorship important for educators at the beginning of their training and careers?

Tyler: The work of a teacher is always evolving. It’s often more than meets the eye. I know more than anyone the importance of strong mentorship. My mentors continue to shape the way I respond to challenges.  I’m very passionate about creating an environment that is solution-oriented. Mentoring new teachers allows me the opportunity to teach new professionals the value and importance of digging deep and finding a way. The most valuable skill any adult can learn is to overcome unfavorable circumstances. It’s important in all professions, but essential to the field of education.

MFF: You’re known for using games and engaging activities to help students learn to love math. Can you give us some examples?

Tyler: A Draw Down is always a class favorite. Students submit work for tickets to win, and at the end of the activity we celebrate the lucky winners. Our annual decimal field day is coming up. Students participate in physical challenges to generate data sets, and we draw conclusions about their datasets at the end of each activity. Trasketball is a class favorite as well. Students answer questions and shoot on our classroom goals to add points to their table group. I also learned a game called Pickle Jar, a fun twist on traditional bingo.  My fifth graders enjoy discussion and debate, and these games, along with many more, allow them the opportunity to work collaboratively.

MFF: Do you remember how you felt when you heard Dr. Jane Foley call your name?

Tyler: My mind was honestly scrambled. This is the most shocking thing that has ever happened to me. It all came completely out of left field. Until I was being pulled out of my seat, I never thought it would be me. I remember thinking of my colleagues. So many are so deserving of recognition. My hope for this experience is that by recognizing one teacher, the Milken Family Foundation has recognized us all at Petal Upper.

Petal Tyler Shows students hug 1000w

MFF: How did students respond to your Milken Award?

Tyler: It was so much fun celebrating with my students. They felt like they had won an award as well, and in a way, they did. I couldn’t do my job without the wonderful students in our district.  Each of them strives for excellence every day. I was glad to show them that every moment and every action matter. I hope they have seen hard work pays off. But more importantly, I hope they have witnessed the power of collaboration. It takes all of us for great things to happen.

MFF: Any plans for your $25,000 Award?

Tyler: I have had so many amazing experiences. I love attending sporting events, concerts, and traveling with my friends and family. I plan to use the Award to visit other places and experience new things. I hope these experiences will bring a new perspective to my classroom and continue to influence the way I relate to students.

MFF: How do you define “success” for yourself, and for your students?

Tyler: Success means something different to each student. Success for my students is helping them set worthwhile goals, and fostering the skills and confidence to reach whatever goals they are passionate about. Success for myself means consistency. Our work is challenging, but every day students and their families put their trust in me to give my best.

MFF: What do you hope students remember from their time with you?

Tyler: It may be overly simple, but I hope they remember happiness. I hope they remember doing difficult things and learning to meet those challenges with hard work and determination.

Petal students check 1000w2


Don’t miss any new articles and updates from Milken Educator Awards:  Subscribe Now

Post your comment


  • Wonderful!!! Congratulations!!!

    Posted by Marie Jackson, 21/01/2023 7:28am (9 days ago)

RSS feed for comments on this page | RSS feed for all comments