Shelly Sowers does not spend time wondering if the glass is half-empty or half-full. She just knows there will be enough. If you have a dream and are willing to act on realizing that dream, there will always be enough to get you there.
As a CMA and CAMA instructor for Online classes, Shelly tries to impart that important message to all her students.
“I know they really want this; they want to make their dreams come true,” says Shelly. “I take a student who has a lot of goals, who really know what they want to do, and I can help them get to the level they need to do well in this field.”
The first week of her class always begins with a pointed quote from Henry David Thoreau: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”
Shelly knew early on that she was born to teach. Her mom, Sandra, helped her make over their entire garage into a classroom when Shelly was in third grade. “My poodle, Honey Lee, was my only student for awhile,” she says, and was also her star pupil until she put down her chalk at age thirteen.
Shelly was not sure what exactly she wanted to teach until, when she was eighteen, her dad, Wayne, began his struggle with cancer, and succumbed just a few months later. Medicine became the focus of her education.
At twenty years old Shelly was working in an urgent care facility when she started school full-time for her Medical Assisting degree. At about the same time, Shelly’s son, Jay, made his appearance into her already busy world.
Having Jay intensified Shelly’s determination to secure her education. Immediately after graduating from her MA program and earning her A.S. degree, Shelly enrolled in a Health Services Administration program.
“I had the clinical side, but needed a stronger administration background,” she says. “That took me six months; then I started a Registered Nursing program a couple of months later.”
Up to her chin in certifications and degrees, Shelly had been working in the Emergency Room of a local Florida hospital for three months when she was offered a position teaching Medical Assisting for a college close by.
In 2010 Shelly joined SJVC’s Online campus as Division Manager for the Clinical Medical Assisting program. She now provides online instruction for both CMA and CAMA programs, while she is finishing up a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology.
“My #1 priority is to give students the foundation of the material we are covering, and make sure they have mastered that,” says Shelly.
She wants to balance that essential goal with those elements that keep students fully engaged. “Not mechanical, but a human-to-human quality.” She calls it a more holistic approach to teaching.
“I want students to enjoy what they are learning and, at the same time, have fun with the material,” she says. “I share things that are hot topics in the news, outrageous things that are related to our studies. For example, once sperm fertilizes an egg, the egg actually releases a toxin that says, ‘no more sperm coming in here; closed for business’.”
Shelly gets inspiration for most everything she does from two very important sources. Her mom, Sandra, sets a high bar. “Mom comes from lots of challenges in her own life,” says Shelly. “She overcame poverty and a learning disability, and still to this day, she is the most positive person.”
But it is Shelly’s son, Jay, who is truly heroic. At twelve years old and autistic, he has daily challenges of severe social anxieties that cause him to be fearful of crowds and loud noises, and that make him not want to leave the house. Jay is also a gifted and self-taught computer prodigy.
Shelly loves to sing and often sings with Jay to draw him into a world they can share. “There’s a song, When I Look at You, that says, ‘Everybody needs inspiration, and everybody needs a song,’ that we put on karaoke and sing together that definitely lifts me up,” says Shelly.
Her glass, as full as she needs it to be; Shelly sees heroes everywhere. “Anybody that has things in their life – a single mother going to school, a grandmother fulfilling a dream – those are the people who are heroes to me. Those everyday heroes.”