At home in Austin, Texas
At home in Austin, Texas

Shellee O'Brien contributes a unique perspective to projects where theories of learning and community building combine with the potential and perils of modern life. Having recently completed a PhD in Political Science, Shellee focuses on questions of civic participation in the digital age. Underlying her research is a nagging question of how our technological development both supports and undermines our democratic ideals. Shellee sees opportunities embedded in understanding that both of these outcomes are possible and in recognizing the difference.

Shellee has committed her career to the idea that a community leveraging its resources has the capacity to improve even the best-made plans. A former classroom teacher, she emerged as a campus leader who mentored beginning teachers and designed professional development that responded to their unique concerns. This experience lead to work with the State Board for Educator Certification as Texas launched a statewide mentoring program. Shellee has now worked with 300 teams of mentors and novice teachers to promote best practices across the state. She has also reviewed the business plans and practices of Educator Preparation Programs seeking to meet the state's need for highly qualified teachers. Shellee facilitated the sharing of best practices between programs as the best way to also ensure compliance with federal and state standards. The conversation was always about what worked rather than what was required.

Shellee worked with developers and business leaders to update an online accountability system for Texas Educator Preparation Programs. The mission was to more fully realize the reporting requirements in state legislation, but Shellee facilitated conversations between developers and practitioners so the application met the expectations of stakeholders as well as agency staff and elected representatives. She had left the classroom committed to experiencing government "from the inside." Her work with the Texas Education Agency and regional education service centers provided a much clearer picture of the complexities of policy implementation that rarely make it into the textbooks.

Shellee continues to play with the possibilities of new technology by engaging communities of students, teachers and leaders in civic education from around the world. She has worked with the Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier and continues to work with the Center for Civic Education to build this network of civic educators and to discover new ways for this diverse community to work together despite the distances between them.


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