Dr. Tondelenia (“Toni”) Shaw, St. Matthew CME
Dr. Tondelenia (“Toni”) Shaw was born in rural Alabama. She is the oldest of three children, who grew up in an environment where both parents worked and believed in structure and discipline.
“My parents only had a high school education, but they both believed in pushing us to go as far as we could go academically. Church was not an option—we had to go. I attribute my academic success to their upbringing. I have always excelled in school and today I’m an educator,” said Dr. Toni Shaw.
After graduating from high school in Alabama, Dr. Shaw first attended Stillman College. While she was there, she met her husband and got married. After having her first child, she returned to school, attending the University of West Alabama (formerly Livingston University), and received her bachelor’s degree in Special Education.
“My husband is a pastor in the Methodist Church, and we are assigned to churches one year at a time. In 2006, he was promoted, we moved to Illinois. We ended up staying in that area for four years, so while we were there, I earned my Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Olivet Nazarene University,” she said.
Once again, the Shaws were assigned to another church; this time St. Matthew Christian Methodist Church in Milwaukee. They have resided here since 2010. Since moving to Milwaukee, Shaw decided to return to Olivet Nazarene University and has earned her doctorate degree in Ethical Leadership. She currently teaches writing to sixth, seventh and eighth graders at Pilgrim Lutheran, a Milwaukee charter school.
“I enjoy being able to invest and pour into the lives of students. I try to make sure that I am the resource and support they need to be successful. Even though I see them face challenges on a daily basis—some that I can help with and others that are out of my control—just being a ‘safety net’ for some of these scholars-is more than rewarding,” said Dr. Shaw.
While she enjoys being in the classroom and working with children on a daily basis, at some point, Dr. Shaw would like to work on the administration side of education.
“I know that I don’t want to always be in the classroom. I look forward to being able to apply the knowledge that I’ve gained while earning my master’s and doctorate in a broader capacity. I enjoy developing curriculum and one day I would love to do that—particularly on the Special Education level. I also want to be in a leadership role to affect policy and changes to help our students become more successful and maximize their academic experience,” she said.
As First Lady of St. Matthew Christian Methodist Church, Dr. Shaw said that she tries to balance her spiritual and academic roles as carefully as possible.
“My spiritual life is just as important as my academic life. For me, Sundays are not negotiable—not just because my husband is Pastor, but I’m a believer. That’s my day to be restored and renewed, so like anything else, I have to be intentional about my spiritual life. I participate in services and give, so that I can receive as well. I need to feed that Spirit part of me,” she said.
Dr. Shaw’s youngest sister, who is also an educator, attends St. Matthew as well.
“I helped my sister with our Back To School Rally, but most of the time, there are people who take on those roles within the church, so that I don’t necessarily have to take charge of those responsibilities. I’m at liberty to pop in to see how things are going and I do that, but others take on those ministry roles and do the heavy lifting,” she said.
Dr. Shaw is grateful that, teaching in a parochial school, she is able to bring her faith into the classroom.
“This is my first teaching job where I’ve been able to freely express and embrace my faith in the classroom. In the public school system I could quietly (internally) and silently pray for children, without them knowing, but as a believer and a Christian we see situations where we can’t pray, and that’s always my first thought. Here, I can do so openly and through intercession.
“I have taught in the public sector and prior to taking this position, I had interviewed with the public school system. The school where I’m currently teaching is a smaller sector, but teaching at Pilgrim Lutheran has been a nice change,” she said.
Dr. Shaw and Pastor Shaw have two sons, Richard and Trentyn. The youngest attends Alabama State University, and the oldest has taken a semester off from attending the same college. He is 23 years old and the father of the Shaw’s first grandchild, ‘Miss Ava,’ as Dr. Shaw affectionately calls her.
Dr. Shaw said that she is pleased to receive the award during the Milwaukee Community Journal’s “Year of the Child”.
“We work really hard to be good stewards over what God has given us and for someone else to recognize that is a blessing. I am grateful to God and humbled. This award makes me want to work even harder. I stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before me. I want to do well, so that my children and grandchildren can see the rewards of our labor,” said Dr. Shaw.