Saniya Shah is a senior at Wilton High School and a Co-Editor-in-Chief for the Forum. She wrote a fiction book called On Touching Stars and spends every free minute writing something, from poetry to short stories to news articles. She's a morning person, likes tea, and is making good on her goal to read more.
Humans of WHS: Ms. Shkreli
December 3, 2022
Ms. Shkreli is a compassionate, enthusiastic, and sensitive person, already spreading her positive spirit to the WHS halls. (Brigitte Shkreli)“My name is Gabrielle Shkreli and one thing I would like to tell you about myself is, I am super—I would describe myself as eclectic, super eclectic, which is one of my favorite words. I’ve got my head in the clouds often, and I’m a super emotional person—in a good way, I think. I just feed off the emotions of others, and that’s a really big part of who I am and the work that I do with my students.”
“Before I got into education, I actually went to school for marketing and business. I had a minor in English literature, so I always loved English class, reading. It’s something that was a really big creative outlet and emotional outlet for me growing up. I always thought I would teach, but I come from a super traditional Albanian family, so it was like, ‘Why would you teach if you’re like a top straight-A student and you can be a lawyer, a doctor, a businesswoman and be super successful?’ So, I kind of gave into some of those pressures, and I went to college to get my business degree. I worked in business for about a year and a half with an educational company. While I was working with that educational company, nine out of twelve months I was doing all different kinds of business work, but those three months in the summer, they sent you to a college campus to work with middle and high school kids and teachers and professors from all over the country. During that summer, I realized I don’t like anything about my job except for this part. ‘I don’t know why I’m waiting to be a teacher if I know that’s what I want to do.’ So, right before the pandemic hit, I went to get my masters of Arts and Teaching.”
“You know, I actually shared this story during my interview process here at WHS and Wilton Public Schools. The most prominent story of my life, when I think back, was probably my high school graduation and getting to take a picture with and speak to my AP Language and Composition teacher, Ms. Boynton. I always tell students, and I warn them on the first day of school, that I’m a total book nerd. I think sometimes they believe me, sometimes they don’t. But I was the salutatorian of my high school class. It was a huge accomplishment to me. I got to make a speech, and I remember feeling like I never had that day: I was so proud of myself. I struggled with a lot of anxiety when I was in high school. I put my whole life into my work and my school work. To see it actually come to fruition and to graduate with these big accomplishments and be the first person in my family to go to college, it was such a monumental moment for me. I did a lot of this with the help of others, but I did it mostly by myself. That was a huge realization for me: that all of my motivation, all of what I got to, was intrinsic.”
“Speaking with my English teacher [that day] was very special to me. She was the one person in my life who helped me find my voice through my writing, through literature. Again, coming from a very traditional background, I had a loving family. I was so loved, but it’s very old-school, and it’s very traditionally male-dominated. So, to have someone show me that I have personal power, not just through what we did in class, but just through the way we were as a human beings, how my English teacher presented herself with grit and grace (which is something I still think of) and how she influenced us to be confident in our writing and therefore ourselves as women in the world. She was a huge part of who I am, and how I still push myself to persevere today, whether that means through social, academic, professional, or personal challenges. I often think back to Mrs. Boynton and how she was that one person in my life who made me realize my worth. I think back to that moment on stage, where all of that is coming to fruition for me, and leaving that stage and getting a big hug from her. I have that picture of us in my bedroom to this day. I’ve taken it to every classroom I’ve worked in. It’s just so huge for me. It’s a big reason why I teach, and she’s a huge influence in the way I teach or the way I try to conduct my classroom. I don’t think I would have had the courage however many years ago to quit my marketing job cold-turkey, and go do what I love regardless of the unknown. That’s a very unlike-me thing to do.”
“I want to bring a legacy that balances high expectations and excellence with absolute and unconditional love. I think that people don’t hear the L-word used in the classroom anymore, but something I try to do by the end of each year is tell my kids, and hopefully show them through the way that I teach, but especially make sure I tell them at some point that I sincerely love them. And I mean that; from the moment I see your name on my roster, you’re one of mine. That’s not anything that goes away, whether I don’t see you ever again for thirty years or I see you all four years. I really want to make a mark on the school and let the kids know that you can do hard things, and no matter how many times you fail, I will still love you and help you for it. I think that’s kind of my educational philosophy in a nutshell. I really, really want to bring joy and love back into the classroom.”