June 14, 2024
Teacher Shelby Lattimore in her classroom







SHELBY LATTIMORE
Shelby Lattimore, a third-grade teacher at Renaissance West STEAM Academy and advocate for student financial literacy, is the Charlotte Post Foundation’s Educator of the Year.

Shelby Lattimore’s lessons in earning and managing money have made her third-grade students much more disciplined and motivated to learn.   

Lattimore is widely known on social media platforms for her financial literacy instructions. Now she can add the honor of being The Charlotte Post Foundation’s Educator of the Year. She’ll be recognized at the foundation’s banquet Oct. 5.

It’s important, she believes, to teach life lessons to her pupils at Renaissance West STEAM Academy.

“We teach students who deal with things like generational poverty,” she said. They often have parents who might work two shifts a day and “stay with grandma and grandpa or they have housing insecurity.”

Since money motivated Lattimore when she was growing up in the Raleigh area, she decided it could do the same for her students.

“In August, they all get jobs,” she said. The jobs are related to classroom activities and maintenance. For performance, she hands out periodic pay in “Miss Lattimore Bucks.”

In October, she starts collecting monthly rent for their desks. Students can earn extra bucks for academic progress, but they’re fined for missing school or showing up late. They buy privileges and treats. But if they spend too much, they experience a money shortage until their next pay day.

“Absolutely, their grades have improved,” Lattimore said. “They’re motivated. They’re taking accountability and transferring it to other aspects of life, like in how they speak to their peers or in taking ownership in their work.”

Local and national media have heralded Lattimore’s innovative approach to teaching and its positive results. Her accomplishments also earned Lattimore the Post Foundation’s top teacher award.

“Shelby Lattimore teaches her students real-life lessons,” said Gerald Johnson, publisher of The Charlotte Post and president of The Charlotte Post Foundation. “Embracing those concepts helps them discover how to live a successful life.”  

Lattimore is in her fourth year at Renaissance West STEAM Academy, her first job after graduation from UNC Charlotte with degrees in Elementary Education and Special Education. One of her professors, Dr. Tehia Starker-Glass, called Lattimore a “Halley’s Comet kid.”

“You see a student in your class and you know they’ve got it,” Dr. Starker-Glass explained. “It really was to me a matter of time before everybody noticed how awesome Shelby is.” Making life skills relevant is important, she added. “We call that culture responsive instruction – bringing home and school together.”

Parents often thank her, Lattimore said, because they are familiar with generational poverty and hope their child will change things for the entire family.

“She gets her students pumped so they’re fully immersed in academic work,” said Renaissance West Principal Dwight Thompson. He believes parents feel comfortable contacting Lattimore directly, he added.

The 18 children in her class receive instruction in mathematics and science from Lattimore. She is paired with Brittany Cox, who teaches them English language arts reading and social studies. When Cox gives a student a good report for performance in her classroom, Lattimore awards that child extra “Lattimore Bucks.”

Cox has implemented a similar reward system. “It’s teaching them that there will be consequences for their actions,” she said. “It makes them hold themselves accountable and teaches them responsibility.”

Lattimore’s approach is effective with “the demographic we work with – brown and black students – (because) she treats them with respect, she shows empathy,” Cox said.  

Lattimore tells of a child who was chronically late for school.

“I made her our first banker, and I told her she was going to lose her job if she was not here on time every day,” she said. “That entire month she was in class, on time every single day.”

Students’ grades improve, Lattimore said, “because they’re here, for one. Then two, they know that for one late [day of] work, they get a fine, so they’re motivated.”

Lattimore supplements her teacher salary with proceeds from posts on social media. One of her videos garnered 20 million views. She tutors after school three days a week and helps coach girls’ basketball at a middle school. She’s a regular exerciser in the gym. Most nights, she gets home at 8:30. She’s back at school at 7:30 a.m.

“It’s draining,” she said.

Still, Lattimore likes her lifestyle for its positivity.

“The majority of what I see about teaching is negative,” she explained. “We don’t make money, we’re tired. We don’t see a lot of genuine, positive things happening. There’s so much life in education, in teaching. That’s one of the major things I like to put out there.” 

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