Meet Shelby Gull Laird
Shelby Gull Laird grew up in Raleigh and then moved to Troy, NC, near the Uwharrie National Forest. However, despite this arboreal background and her presence in the Forestry program, Laird’s studies are not concentrated in the trees, but the water that feeds them. She jokes that she is “pretty sure that she could tell the difference between an evergreen and a deciduous tree.”
Laird returned to the Triangle in order to attend the North Carolina School of Science and Math (NCSSM) in Durham. She then came to NC State to earn a Bachelor’s in Science Education and was pleased enough with her experiences that she has continued her education here with a Masters in Science Education. She is currently working on a PhD in Natural Resources and describes herself as “NC State all the way.”
Laird taught at Garner High School for four years while working part time on her Master’s degree. During this time, she underwent training with the It’s Our Water! program. As a result, she feels that her current position as State Coordinator of the It's Our Water program has “a certain serendipity.” Laird works with teachers to give them the experience of getting outdoors so that they can pass on that information to their own students.
With It’s Our Water!, the key is not the water, but the experience itself. “We hope that they have a local stream, pond or even a stormwater retention pond,” said Laird. Even ditches have been used at times. And it is not always the students that need encouragement to get in the water. Occasionally a teacher is less than overjoyed about wading into the mud. However, by helping teachers who are reluctant to get their feet wet to obtain samples, Laird is also able to demonstrate techniques for use with similarly minded students, but. . .“I don’t think I’d be able to get away with it if I hadn’t been a teacher.” One of the strengths of the It’s Our Water! program is that it has a broad curriculum that can be taken to “whatever level you want.” Some students use strip-testing kits, while those in Advanced Placement (AP) Chemistry often get practical experience in the lab.
During her time at NC State, Laird helped to establish the Wolfpack Women in Science program, and she has also been recognized by the Environmental Educators of North Carolina for her service and commitment to promoting environmental education and providing quality programs.
Shelby Gull Laird expects to graduate in December 2009. While she is not sure of her exact destination, Laird says, “I really like chances to effect change” and feels that this is reflected in “all of my career choices.” She has moved from teaching students, to teaching teachers -- and shown a consistency for outreach both within and without the campus environment.