Meet Shawn

Bertha Black Rhoda: Educator to Educator

Although Bertha Black Rhoda retired from teaching at Vashon High School in 1975, she continues to help educate St. Louis area young people.

How? A scholarship established in the 1990s by her husband, William, a retired postal clerk.

Today, it is a gift that truly keeps on giving.

One beneficiary is Shawn Williams, who is now an educator in his own right.

Shawn relied on the Bertha Black Rhoda scholarship as he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science from Missouri State University.

I never knew Mrs. Rhoda or her family, but her scholarship helped lift a weight off of my shoulders,” he says. “It gave me a sense of peace as I worked toward my degree. I stand on her shoulders.”

Born and raised in St. Louis, Shawn graduated from college in 2012, served in Teach for America and later taught third and fourth graders in the St. Louis Public Schools. He also earned his Master’s Degree in Elementary Education and is now pursuing his doctorate so he can move into education administration.

“I love teaching,” Shawn says. “Every day is different – it’s never the same thing.”

He credits two St. Louis Public School educators for his career in education. “My guidance counselor at Vashon, Ms. Wanda Garner, kept me on my toes, and gave me something to hope and work for,” he says. “Ms. Barbara Sharp, my principal, encouraged me to develop my leadership skills and my passion for education. I owe both of them so much.”

Politics, however, is Shawn’s ultimate ambition. “I want to be a United States Senator, and I believe it is important to have a profession to bring to that role,” he says. “I chose education. I love making a difference in the lives of my students.