“As a special education intervention teacher and teacher consultant, I had my purpose and was making the difference with the teachers and kids I worked with. But I felt I had a calling to give this purpose to more people, in a larger venue, than what I was doing.”
Hey there! Thanks for popping into My 5 Freedoms Life and our Freedom for Educators Virtual Summit, an online event created exclusively for educators seeking more freedom. I'm your host Suzanne Klein, an educator-turned-entrepreneur with a 5 Freedoms Life and teaching you how to have one, too!
For this event, I really enjoyed assembling over twenty speakers, other
educators-turned-entrepreneurs. It’s the first time they’re sharing their expertise and experience in a forum like this, to help you achieve more freedom in your life. I'm excited for today’s guest to share her story with you. Our 20-minute chat turned into an hour, because we just kept talking about all the things we have in common. Like the fact we taught only an hour apart in my home state of Michigan. She’s an SDE speaker
and I was a BER speaker. And, like me, she's an educator-turned-entrepreneur who developed a program from her success in her own classroom and marketed it to share with a wider audience. She pursued her passion and transitioned into entrepreneurship, creating her own freedom and following her purpose. A warm welcome to education
consultant, author, and founder of Strategic Intervention Solutions for Teachers, Shannon Samulski-McCartney. Thank you for being with us today.
Hi! Great! Thank you so much for having me. I'm really excited!
Can you give us an overview of what you'd like our viewers to take away from your message today?
Being part of this summit is such a terrific opportunity. When I look at educators today and the path I've been on for a long time, I always think of this as Chapter 2 of my career. When I first started teaching, I made a difference in that world, but I felt like I could do more. In the context of your 5 Freedoms, I think I desired purpose. As a special education intervention teacher and teacher consultant, I had purpose and was
making the difference with the teachers and kids I worked with. But I felt I had a calling to give this purpose to more people, in a larger venue, than what I was doing.
Today will be my first chance to share my 10-year adventure—Chapter 2 in my career.
And it's such a wonderful opportunity for us to hear your story. When you considered leaving teaching, what were you thinking in the months or year before?
It was hard. I taught full-time, then went part-time for four years. Most people will think I wanted to be home with my kids—which I did—but I also wanted to open up that time; it was a crazy work schedule when my kids were little.
At the same time, in the back of my mind, I wanted to build my consulting career. So, for four years, I taught part-time, had the behind-the-scenes fun of being a mom, and at the same time looked forward to the next chapter.
I think the hardest decision for me was probably the mediocrity tied to it. When I was in education, it was never that I thought I was better than anybody; I was just pursuing a passion of my own. I went to my principal: “I think I'm going to take a leave of absence for two years.” The story she told me will always resonate whenever I doubt myself.
She said, “We’re birds on a wire here. All the teachers, kind of flocking and doing their own thing. Some of us get into the thick of things, or feel like we want to change our careers. Other birds will stay on that wire and continue to do the wonderful things they do in the classroom. But you're going to fly away; you’ll come back and visit the wire,
but you’re supposed to fly away and do different things.”
There was a lot of internal struggle. But I always felt safe; I could take a leave of absence for two years and get a position back with the multitude of certifications I had.
So it was hard, leaving the comfort of having a staff there all the time, but I found comfort—and really my purpose—outside of it that I never would have thought would be as large as it is now.
I love that birds-on-a-wire analogy; it's wonderful when our administrators can inspire us, instead of some of the other stories we’re going to hear along the way in this summit—where the principal actually throws up more obstacles, and that's hard. It’s wonderful to hear you had a supportive principal.
So, you had this purpose. Was it nagging at you? Was anyone telling you, “No, you should stay”? Why didn't you just stay until retirement and then pursue creating your business?
For me, a lot of it was the timing. I was about halfway through my teaching career. I thought about the financial part of retirement, because I always say teachers take a vow of poverty; you’re never going to make enough money, even if you're working different jobs—tutoring or something—during the summer. And I just thought if I could
make enough money to live the life that I want, and at the same time earn back some freedom of self and be able to value that, it would be wonderful.
A lot of people want to venture into the world of what I'm doing, but I think for some of the teachers we’ve had come to us and...it’s $4000... it’s that retirement feeling; “I have four years until retirement. If I do this, that’s $4000 less every year I'll have until I'm retired...”
But there’s also a big picture. It’s a risk, yes—that $4000. But at the same time if you take this on and create something you’re super-passionate about, really absorb yourself in that content, and that's when things start to happen... that $4000 doesn't seem as big of a deal.
A lot of concern is health care: “If I leave teaching, I'm not going to have any health care; what am I going to do?” But the idea of being able to... you know, invest money... and look at that in a Different way beyond just that teacher salary. And so, for me... you know, I’ll get... I bought five years... when that was allowed, when you were allowed to do that... I have a pension coming, but it’s small; I've been able to work on my retirement in a different way that I didn't think was possible as a teacher.
I remember you telling me the exact story, and this is similar to what was happening to me. You have a lot of teachers come up and say, “Hey, I love what you're doing! I really want to come and work for you.” And I think you're referring to one teacher that you were really excited to sign up—she was going to be a coach, I think—but she was one who said, “I can't do it. It's the $4000.”
But I think in the bigger picture you painted, it's true that we think in this kind of box... And yes, $4000 is a lot of money. But it's thinking small and not thinking about... if she had taken that opportunity with you, who knows what... The sky is... Beyond the sky's the limit...no limit really. Maybe she would have coached with you and made more money.
Maybe she would have even spun off and done her own thing; then she could have doubled, tripled what she was making in teaching. It’s too bad that she said, “Well, I only have four more years until retirement. I might just as well hang in there,” even though that’s not what she really wanted to do. Because those four years...it doesn’t sound like a lot, but that’s a lot in our lifetime...Do you have any comments to that?
Yeah, I think that is the thought: “I only have four more years...” I come back to one of the reasons I'm talking to you; it’s really about purpose. That “I feel rundown in my classroom even though I'm making a difference. I'm kind of dealing with a lot of stuff.”
For me...leaving my career...I’d lost what I thought I'd signed up for. I was in meetings with lawyers about a child’s educational performance, and different things like that. It's looking at a happier part. We talk a lot about the stress levels you endure as a teacher. And that if you could focus and become an expert in one area, what would that look like? Part of this is the launching—to take the step, throw yourself out there. But
it's also safe to take a leave of absence and know that if worst-case scenario...
I've always been a believer—and this has totally been true for my path, of what I've done—that if you could envision something happening, it will happen; you will make it happen. Every time I felt defeated, and one door closed—I don't know why it was always three days—another door opened. Three days; every time. It’s so weird. And it was like, “Okay, I’m not going to let that get me down. This is my next path.” There's
always another open door; it's really about feeling good about yourself and having the confidence that it's going to work out.
I love that! I absolutely believe in that, kind of “synergy of the universe.” When you open yourself to the possibilities, instead of feeling stuck and not doing anything about it, those opportunities can land at your feet. Many people sit on the bench, but you went from dreaming to doing. Kudos to you! Very impressive story.
You created products and curriculum and coaching that weren’t there before; you made it appear because of all your hard work and skills—and it takes a lot of courage.
Speaking of skills, this launches into the next question I have for you. Were there skills you had as a teacher that were transferable to what you’re doing now, running your own business, and ensured your success in starting and maintaining this business?
The reason I ask is, many teachers believe once they’ve got that degree, made that investment in their undergraduate degree, that they must always be a teacher—that's all they have, all they know—and they don't feel like they can go out and get another job, or go into a different career path, or start their own business based on just a feeling of purpose—like you and I both did. So, did you have skills that transferred from teaching to running a business?
I think the biggest one is adaptability. I had a dual degree and a dual career—special education and general education—and, ironically, I’m a reading specialist and I do math almost every day.
But the part that I had learned the most in teaching was... I think of kids as onions, and I de-layer them. I always say I want to peel back the layers to find the root of the problem. And in initially doing, preventing early learning failure... I just took situations and was skilled at being able to de-layer where they were—whether it was a special needs child or a general ed student, I was able to do that.
I find that every day in my career now, whether I'm with one of our most affluent schools or a school that’s full Title 1, they all have different issues—whether it's student achievement or math scores—and we're constantly taking that and de-layering it.
This very large project that I've undertaken, doing math curriculum, was really to take what's happening in the classroom and figure out why it isn't working. We have to de-layer more to find out what the root of the problem is. And I named my company Strategic Intervention Solutions because the idea is if we could be more strategic about what we're doing—have that focus—we could clear the way to make it more successful.
Certainly, leadership is a big skill. Not being afraid to say, “I think it's a great idea, but... Let's look at the data, and then we can be more prescriptive in seeing how we can do it even better.” And organization, and that idea of self-discipline, of “I want to develop something I see a need for,” and knowing the impact it can have... I think those have
helped me, in any situation, to figure out how we can make it successful.
Absolutely. And I love that you’re sharing these things, because it shows you've broken free from your Limiting Beliefs, which is what holds many people back. I'm so glad you're sharing this inspirational message; this is all helpful.
Would you mind if I shared something personal about you that I learned during our conversation?
I'm putting you on the spot here, but you shared with me that you’re exhausted and working longer hours now than when you were a teacher, driving all over the place doing Professional Development days and speaking gigs, all while managing an expanding team. I totally get this; we were there, too. When I was building WriteSteps, and selling over $8 million in products and services... It’s a heavy load you're carrying and a big team to build. I get it. It takes a lot.
You're going through some growing pains right now. Which is a good thing, if you look at it, because that means you're increasing your reach. I can tell you it’ll get easier once you put some systems in place. I think I mentioned this before, but I would love to coach you and help you create even more freedom.
You have an incredibly special event coming up in three days. Can you share with our participants what’s happening?
I’m getting married this Saturday! In three days!
So, I've gone by “Shannon Samulski” for a long time—I've been an author under that name. Now I’ll be Shannon McCartney; though professionally I'll be Shannon Samulski-McCartney, just so people don't think I'm some new person off the street!
We’re very excited for our big day. It’s an exhausting time of the year for me—with the beginning of the school year—so I'm excited. A good friend of ours gifted us their timeshare, so I'm going to Maui! We're excited to have 10 days there, and I'm just going to completely unplug.
I'm glad to hear you're unplugging during your honeymoon, because that’s a time you deserve to completely relax. Good to hear.
Unfortunately, we’re coming to the end of our time and I want to make sure our educators hear about your free offer. It's really going to be helpful for our 1st-5th grade math teachers. You're going to want to grab this great Abacus Activity Card that Shannon’s offering, free for just each of you. So, no sharing, folks. Shannon, I have to bust your chops a little bit, as a fellow Michiganian. When you gave us your business title for this summit, you wrote, “Educator and Author.” But you are so much more than that—I hope you realize that, and I mention it because it's not only the teachers in our buildings who are playing it small; it can be our former teachers as well. I want to make sure you know that—as the founder and CEO of Strategic Intervention Solutions (S.I.S.) For Teachers—you're an educator-turned-entrepreneur, helping more teachers and making a huge difference all around the nation. And thank you for
following your purpose, which was today's objective: to help those educators out there who feel their purpose may be outside of the classroom—and also teachers who are happy in the classroom, but want to hear more about how someone else did it—learn some of the strategies.
I want to thank you for joining me during this enlightened session, and I wish you an absolutely magical day and an amazing honeymoon in Maui!
Thank you so much for having me!
I want to thank you for joining us at the first-ever Freedom for Educators Virtual Summit.
I'm Suzanne Klein. Remember, you can Rewrite Your Future. Until next time. Stay savvy, my friends.
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