Shelton High teacher: Going beyond the classroom

Shelton has become more than just a home for Dana Jeanette-Kneen, a Shelton High School teacher and the SHS English Department curriculum leader.

Shelton, in many ways, is her life. It’s in her blood.

Jeanette-Kneen is a Shelton native and 1992 SHS graduate, so recently receiving the Local Hero award from Ronald McDonald House Charities of Connecticut for her work at the high school was a special recognition for her, she said.

The award was presented at a recent ceremony sponsored by the Connecticut Association of Schools. She also was named as one of four finalists for the statewide Excellence in High School Teaching Award for Connecticut.

Many responsibilities

Now in her 17th year at Shelton High and her eighth year as the department leader, Jeanette-Kneen has taken on many more responsibilities besides teaching her classes.

She is one of the leaders of the new Capstone program that requires all seniors to perform a culminating project, and in 2010 she became a co-chairman for an SHS steering committee.

“It was an arduous process that explored all forms of the high school while reapplying for accreditation,” Jeanette-Knee said of her work on the committee.

“Working and communicating with so many committees in different departments gave me the further desire to want to make a better impact in this very high school outside of just the English Department," she said.

When asked about her dedication and drive, Jeanette-Kneen at first joked that it’s her “insanity” that motivates her the most. But her biggest motivation is really the desire to impact students and teachers in a positive manner, she said.

“The reason I applied for the department chair position nine years ago was to make my mark in student and teacher lives,” she said. “I hope to positively impact them throughout a variety of teachings and lessons that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.”

Her days as an SHS student

As a student at SHS, Jeanette-Kneen was heavily involved in high school activities. This included serving as editor in chief of the high school’s Gael Winds newspaper.

“There were so many extracurriculars offered back then, and even more are available now,” she said. “It was such a great part about the school and still is today.”

After graduating from Providence College with a degree in secondary English education, she attended American University in Washington, D.C., to earn a master’s degree in English literature.

Jeanette-Kneen, who is married and has a 5-year-old son, credits some of her teachers at Shelton High for inspiring her to become a teacher herself.

“Tom Gersz, the former English Department curriculum leader, was someone who helped me become who I am today,” she said. “His unfortunate passing was something that made me have to step up to the plate and find more strength than I had.”

Charles O’Keefe is a senior at Shelton High, editor in chief of Gael Winds, and president of the SHS student council.