Meet Instructional Coach Shawness Woods-Zende: Educator, Communicator, and Deep Thinker

When you meet Shawness, her caring and passionate nature exudes through your screen. Even without the luxury of in-person meetings, she still finds a way to relate to and connect with whomever she is talking to, a quality that makes her an incredible Instructional Coach.

With nearly 30 years of experience as a Detroit educator, she is invested in the community and believes, “Being an educator is one of the most important jobs we can have. It’s important for the community and important for our future.”

In addition to being a phenomenal educator, she is a mother of an amazing daughter whom she raised in the Detroit community and who attended schools in the Detroit Public School system. As a parent, Shawness was very involved with her daughter’s education and built relationships with her daughter’s teachers to ensure a successful academic experience.

As a result of this dedication and partnership, her daughter was accepted to many different major universities. Ultimately, she attended and graduated from the distinguished Howard University. Shawness credits the Detroit school system and community with helping mold her daughter into the incredible twenty-eight-year-old woman she is today. You can learn more about Shawness’s approach to parenting in her reading of “How To Grow A Good Human” from the Listen to your Mother series, a production of diverse short stories about motherhood.

Shawness’s belief in the greatness of the city of Detroit and its school system is what makes her a great addition to CollegeSpring as an Instructional Coach to our Detroit partners and educators. She trains teachers on ways to improve their instructional practice and provides (virtual) in-class support and constructive feedback on teaching strategies while modelling actionable procedures to inform and improve the delivery of CollegeSpring’s Test Confidence curriculum.

Shawness took some time to speak more about herself and her work in the interview below.

What unique challenges and opportunities do you think our teachers and students face, particularly in Detroit?

I do not believe we have any challenges that are unique to the city. Many urban cities face many of the same challenges we do. Two of the biggest challenges we face are chronic absenteeism and poverty. We know that the two are directly connected. Recognizing that the school system cannot battle this problem alone, Detroit has turned this challenge into an opportunity by providing resources that can support students with resources for the challenges that contribute to chronic absenteeism.

What is your favorite thing about your current job?

I love that my coworkers are passionate and thoughtful about their work. I also love the camaraderie, the autonomy, and the ability to work from home.

What do you wish people knew about the SAT or college preparation?

I wish people knew how important it is as a way to college access and resources.

How do you spend your time when you aren’t working?

When I am not working, I love to read, travel and sew.

What career advice would you give to your younger self?

I would say take more risks, try things even when you don’t think you will like them, and document more of how you lived and the value you contributed to this world.

What makes you feel at peace?  

I feel at peace when I have done my best. I feel at peace when I add value to whatever I am  doing.

Is there anything else you think people should know about you?

I wasn’t born and raised in Detroit, but I consider it my home. When I travel, I enjoy myself but always look forward to coming home.