Thursday, September 11, 2014

One goal. One family.

It’s often a small world in Spring Branch ISD. Just ask Shelby Zachary and Will Handlin. The two new Spring Woods High School teachers met years ago as babies: the two were cared for by the same babysitter.

At Spring Woods High this fall, the familiar phrase, “One Family,” has a vivid meaning for a handful of families. Six staff members have genetic ties that bind – mother and daughter, father and son, grandmother and granddaughter.

Like many SBISD campuses, Spring Woods High recruits and retains many of its own. At least 15 Spring Woods High graduates teach at the campus, and as many as 30 faculty and staff have graduated from the district’s high schools. Emma Slattery Knowles now teaches at Spring Woods, her former high school. Lisa Slattery, her mom, teaches business at the school.

It's all in the family for six staff members at Spring Woods High.  From left, Will and Bill
Handlin;  left middle, Emma and Lisa Slattery; and left bottom, Shelby and Belle Zachary.
“As my mom says, it’s a good thing that we like each other!” quips Emma, a Social Studies teacher and a swim coach. Bill Handlin, Will’s dad, has taught mathematics for 31 years at Spring Woods.

An authority in Algebra who has helped write national textbooks, Handlin has a reason for looking forward to the new school year – his son Will’s first year on campus as an Algebra teacher. This all-in-the-family history at Spring Woods runs deep. Will’s godfather was Coach Charlie Maiorana, for whom the campus baseball field was named.

Young Will “grew up” on the Spring Woods High campus and he knew famous baseball player Roger Clemens. Will later pitched for Kentucky’s Murray State University baseball team. Bill Handlin has coached baseball for many years, too. “It will be a thrill for me to teach with William,” he says. “William took his own path into teaching. He always had an affinity for helping others learn, but you never truly know what God’s plans are for a person.” Last year, the father-son Handlin team taught math class together.

“That was truly a dream come true,” Bill says. “SBISD is a great place to teach because it’s one big family,” Will says. A grad of Meadow Wood Elementary and Spring Forest Middle schools, Will served first on campus as an Academic Advisor before joining the math department. His babysitting companion, Shelby Zachary, teaches Special Education students this year.

Her grandmother, Belle Zachary, has worked 25 years for SBISD, many of them as a department support specialist at the high school. Shelby graduated from Katy High School and earned her bachelor’s degree from Sam Houston State University, but Spring Woods High wasn’t a strange place to her. She’s been visiting Spring Woods High since she was 3 months old. Her father and uncle are Tiger grads, and her dad atteneded with Roger Clemens, too.

“I think that Spring Branch is a great place to teach because ‘they take care of their own.’ I have found so much support here from everyone I have met, and it feels to me like ‘One Family’ here,” she says. Shelby is certified in Social Studies.

“This spurs me on to be the best teacher that I can be. It makes a difference to students when the faculty is so supportive.” Emma and her mom both note that Lisa Slattery first taught at Emma’s elementary school. Lisa was an active middle school volunteer, and then began teaching in the business department while Emma was at Spring Woods High.

The history resulted in a family joke. “It became a running joke in our family, and at Spring Woods, that my mom was also going to follow me to college,” Emma says. “When I started applying for colleges, I even threatened to attend the University of Texas just because I was sure that she wouldn’t follow me there!”

Emma graduated from Texas A&M University in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences-Youth Development. She was certified in Social Studies and also coaching when a position at her old high school opened. “My mom did not go with me to college, but here we are five years later, and now I’ve followed her to Spring Woods!” Emma proclaims, adding that “once my husband and I found out we were moving back to Houston, working in Spring Branch was the only thing I would consider!”

Lisa Slattery couldn’t be happier with the turn of events. “I love that she is working alongside the same coach and teachers that she had when she was here as a student, and I love that – once again – we get to see each other at school every day,” she said.


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