Shingler retires from education — again

By: 
Ryan Winn
Columnist

Kenneth Shingler has made a lot of life-changing decisions.

For 58 years, he has steered area high school and college students along their educational journeys. The time has come for Shingler to officially call it a career.

Born in Clintonville, Shingler received his formative education at St. Rose Catholic Military School. He then graduated from Clintonville High School where his favorite classes were football, basketball and baseball. It was his high school English teacher who made an indelible mark on his life.

“She forced me to read books that weren’t sports related,” Shingler said. “In so doing, she opened my eyes to the world of literature. She told me that if I didn’t try anything new, I wouldn’t learn anything new about myself.”

Shingler was recruited to play baseball at what was then called Wisconsin State College-Oshkosh, but has since merged into the University of Wisconsin System, becoming the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

“I struck out with baseball, but managed to complete a double major — English and biology,” Shingler said. “Later, I completed my reading specialist degree.”

In 1966, Shingler accepted his first teaching position at Oconto Falls High School, but after two years he took his talents to Shawano High School where he taught English for 33 years.

“Teaching in the ‘60s was both exhilarating and frustrating,” Shingler said. ‘Times they are a-changing,’ sang Bobby Dylan — and they sure were at Shawano. Long hair, miniskirts and ‘pagan’ music were the main concerns of the administration. Teaching was a rollercoaster ride with its ups and downs, but overall, I enjoyed teaching not only high school English, but also connecting to students from all walks of life including the gifted and talented students and my favorite group of kids, those overcoming adversity.”

Shingler’s first foray into retirement didn’t last long. In 2001, he received a call from the College of Menominee Nation that changed his life.

“I had been retired for a few weeks, when I received that call from Dee Bisley, recruiter at CMN, who wanted me to consider teaching an English class for CMN,” Shingler said. “It turned out to be one of the better decisions I have ever made.”

For 23 years, Shingler always felt welcomed and appreciated while teaching at the college.

“Although my title has been English teacher, I have also been a student,” he said. “I learned much about the Menominee culture, traditions and values. These lessons have greatly enriched my life.”

When asked about advice he would share with students, Shingler said: “Accept new challenges, follow your passions, and embrace your struggles whether they be in the classroom or outside of the classroom. After all, any meaningful growth is preceded by a struggle.”

Unsurprisingly, Shingler sees the role of an educator as more than a mere bearer of knowledge.

To colleagues, he affirms, “Teaching is more than following a sequence of lessons on a syllabus. Teaching is helping students gain confidence in themselves and encouraging them to leave their comfort zones. Eventually, when students reflect on their college classes, they may not remember their grades, but they will remember how you made them feel. You are the bow, your students are the arrows. Aim them in the right direction.”

CMN honored Shingler three times during his final week as an educator. He was gifted an American Indian Higher Education Consortium quilt at the all-employee convocation, a maple wooden bowl that was created by local artist Jeremy Pyatskowit during the pre-commencement faculty gathering, and the coveted 2024 CMN Faculty of the Year Award at the May 17 commencement ceremony.

At the commencement, CMN Chief Academic Officer Geraldine Sanapaw stated, “During his time at CMN, Ken has been a cherished member of our liberal studies faculty, helping to set standards for both student writing and assessment. In the past two decades he has served on countless committees, numerous task forces, and has become a staple of our institution. Ken has also been a tireless advocate for our Learn and Earn Program for incoming high school students and an invaluable ally for anyone facing adversity.”

Shingler is known for quick quips known as “Shinglish,” and when asked about how he felt about the recognition he responded in trademark fashion— “I’m as happy as a gopher in soft sand.”

About his retirement plans, Shingler said: “I hope to travel, pursue my hobby of buying and selling antiques, and read, read, read.”

Although Shingler has made a lot of life-changing decisions in his life, those going forward will be deservedly less consequential.

“My biggest decision in retirement will be decaf or regular for my morning coffee,” he said.

Māēc wāēwāēnen (Big thanks) for a lifetime of service to the craft of education, Ken. May your antiquing be thrilling, coffee refreshing and books enlightening.

Ryan Winn, Ph.D., teaches courses in communication, English, history, and theater at College of Menominee Nation. For information about the school, visit www.menominee.edu.