For the last 40 years, Melanie Shelnutt has not only been teaching AP psychology but also brightening the lives of anyone she comes across at NC. An AP course of any kind typically does not come to mind when thinking of a bright and bubbly environment, but Shelnutt makes her classroom exactly that. Since 1979 Shelnutt has taught a variety of classes ranging from on level and AP Psychology, sociology, ethnic studies, world geography, and anthropology. Four years ago Shelnutt minimized her teaching schedule to only two classes a day. While nothing comes between the love she holds for the NC community and her job, at the end of the 2019 school year, Shelnutt plans on fully retiring. According to The Hechinger Report, in the first five years, nearly 50 percent of teachers will leave the profession. This makes Shelnutt’s 40 years stand out extraordinarily.
“Ms. Shelnutt came to North Cobb when my own children were still in school, and she was barely older than them. She was enthusiastic and student-centered. Her love for her students is legendary; she was always defending the honor of some student she was teaching or had taught. Her enthusiasm never waned. She was/is a staunch supporter of all Warrior athletics; cheering on the student-athletes as well as the coaching staff. She defines what it means to be a Warrior. The students, faculty, staff and NC community will miss her devotion to them,” former NC principal Jeanette McLeod said.
Over the years, students have developed a powerful love for Shelnutt and her enthusiastically happy personality. Her ability to keep a contagiously bright smile even on the worst of days rubs off on anyone she comes in contact with.
“Ms. Shelutt is an amazing teacher, from life lessons to loving her profession she really shows that students and success matters,” Senior Kaitlyn Dejesus said.
Her faith allows her to keep this positive attitude. During Shelnutt’s stay at NC, she suffered the loss of both her parents and the love of her life, Bob Kid. She feels coming to school and spending time with her students helped her through these hardships.
“I always believe in the goodness in people. I know that if you look for something then you’ll find it, and I choose to look for the good and I am rarely disappointed,” Shelnutt said.
Shelnutt grew up with her parents and three older siblings in Cobb County. Her dad loved his job as a history teacher and coach. He acted as the perfect role model for her, and from a young age she knew, just by watching him, she wanted to teach. She loves the challenge that teaching highly motivated, bright children throws at her. She hates stagnation and constantly tries to develop new teaching skills. She includes fun personal stories to help learn as well as mnemonics and songs.
Out of all the classes Shelnutt taught throughout her career, psychology holds a special place in her heart. She feels most impressed with the students and loves the curriculum because they learn things they can use every day. Her favorite part of teaching is the students. From her now 57-year-old students to her current students, she loves and cherishes every single one of them.
“Kids are great. They have enthusiasm and high ideals. They still believe that they can make a difference, and I know they can. Some people get really down about the future and what it is going to be like, but I have faith that it will be even better because I know kids,” Shelnutt said.
Past students of Shelnutt keep in contact with her over social media, some still reaching out for advice from time to time. Her former student Katharine Voyles Mobley, an award-winning marketer and CMO of First Advantage, honored Shelnutt in the book, Standing O, for positively impacting her life and pushing her to become a better leader.
Many students would describe Shelnutt as more of a family member or mentor than just a teacher. Accepting of everyone, always there to help, and an amazing advice giver, kids feel comfortable confiding in Shelnutt with anything. Her optimistic outlook on life acts as a ray of light in the sometimes dark and stressful atmosphere of high school.
“Oh gosh… to this day… I still reach out to her for advice. She helped shape my outlook on myself and people as a whole. She helped me realize that I am someone and that my life matters. Thank you for shaping me into a well-rounded human being, Ms. Shelnutt!!!” Shelnutt prior student and class of 1993 NC graduate Wendy Hester said.
Over her 4 decades serving NC, Shelnutt has obviously witnessed many changes. From the growing of departments to advancements in technology, she still finds excitement in the little things, like the ability to take attendance on her phone. Along with the changes at NC, changes in the education system, such as the increasing amount of mandated testing, shock Shelnutt. She wishes teachers had more of a say on when and how their students test, she feels losing instructional time to test does not help students in the long run.
Although Shelnutt bleeds red and black as an avid Georgia Bulldog fan, representing NC orange for 40 years makes her feel proud. She believes the community, the kids, and the support, especially from her peers, make NC amazing.
“To have someone teach at the same school for 40 years is unheard of. Ms. Shelnutt started and grew the AP psychology program at North Cobb High School with a passion, intellect, and focus that cannot be duplicated. Miss Shelnutt is a legend and rockstar of North Cobb High School,” Psychology teacher Will Hargis said.
After Shelnutt retires she plans on volunteering and traveling with her friends and sisters. She also wants to fall in love again and enjoy this chapter of her life. While she will certainly cherish the memories made at NC–like hosting an impromptu prom in the gym and winning teacher of the year–the recognition from the amazing staff means everything to her.
To her, teaching resembles a performance art due to the amount of hard work, attention, and motivation she dedicates. She claims she never knows what to do with a day off because all of her time goes towards her job. Despite loving her job more than anything, she feels ready for something different.
“I am not leaving the classroom because I do not love it; I am leaving just to pursue other things. I realize that life does not last forever, and there are things I want to do; now is the time to do it,” Shelnutt said.
NC will forever hold the biggest love of all for Melanie Shelnutt.