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Pulling Double Duty

As educators across the country battle against the effects that the COVID-19 pandemic might have on student learning, a Crowley ISD teacher gets to fight against the virus in another way as well — through her service in the National Guard.

Kenyatta Shanks headshot Kenyatta Shanks, a middle school math teacher at Crowley Learning Center and a captain in the Louisiana Army National Guard, got the call Saturday to report to her duty station to begin preparing and researching as part of the guard’s medical detachment.

“We have to make sure our soldiers are prepared,” said Shanks, who has served in the National Guard for 25 years. “Across every state, we want to make sure that when the state needs us, we have soldiers who are healthy to get out there and assist citizens of the state.  It’s a very small price to just come here.”

Although not officially activated yet, she had the opportunity to respond to the call to help because of CISD’s closure. She said her commander in Louisiana is supportive of her need to also be available to her students, and CLC Principal Rashad Muhammad also supports her duty to the National Guard.

Shanks wants students to know that even though the adults and parents are trying to figure out how to handle this unprecedented event, they should keep moving forward with their education.

“I just want them to know, even though you’re at home, don’t stop learning,” she said. “We can all get through this.”

Shanks, who is in her first full school year at CISD, has a special place in her heart for her CLC students.

“I was one of those students that one may have said was an at-risk student, a high school dropout at the time,” she said, adding that to now work with students at CLC, “to me, it’s like my life calling.”

Shanks and family At 17, Shanks joined the National Guard, which she said gave her a path and the discipline she needed at that time. An enlisted soldier for 12 years, she now holds a leadership role.

The National Guard provided tuition assistance so she could attend college for free and earn a degree in social work. She also took advantage of the Troops to Teach program, which helps soldiers transition into teaching careers. She’s been teaching now for about eight years.

Since the school district’s closure was announced, Shanks has emailed her students and sent text messages to parents to let them know she is available to help with schoolwork and that she is thinking about them during this uncertain time.

“I don’t want them to think that school ended and everybody disappeared,” she said. “We’re still here for them. It’s just a new way we’re going to have to attack academics.”