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Shellard retires after 27 years of serving South community

Emily Tu

Forever a Titan: Pumping his fist in the air during the teacher act in the 2017 Variety Show, Synchronicity, Jim Shellard, student activities director, dances in a way that exemplifies his comical personality. Shellard’s spirit and passion for the students and events of GBS will be remembered in the halls and in hearts far into his retirement.

Abby Grant, co-opinions editor

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It’s approximately 4:00 p.m. when a heavy vibration resonates throughout the carpeted floor of GBS. Inside the Student Activities Office (SAO), James Shellard, student activities director, dribbles a basketball around the perimeter of the office in an attempt to shield the ball from freshman Anish Abeysiriwardena, his opponent. Abeysiriwardena can’t stop giggling as Shellard intensely participates in the game, maneuvering around important papers and a human-sized, stuffed bear that lies adjacent to the desk.

Administrative assistant Jennifer Swanson erupts in laughter at the scene, but returns back to her work at the computer, attributing the normality of the humorous situation to Shellard’s character. According to Swanson, Shellard, who will be retiring at the end of the 2016-2017 school year, has a tendency to create an amusing atmosphere within the SAO.

“He’s unlike anybody I’ve worked for before,” Swanson said. “He makes fun in the office; he engages with the kids all the time. We never really know what to expect from him, so sometimes it’s a little bit crazy.”

Shellard, who has been South’s Student Activities Director for 24 years, is in charge of managing student activities as well as making an effort to immerse the student body in a wide variety of clubs and sports. According to Shellard, he has watched the student body use their rising interests to evolve the activities program over the years.

“We certainly have more clubs than we’ve ever had before,” Shellard said. “I think we’ve done a decent job trying to stay up to date with the needs of the student body by allowing them to start clubs that are interesting to them, […] which is what I think makes this school seem smaller than it really is.”

Whether he is juggling knives in the Variety Show or arranging for a cow to be brought in during South’s homecoming week, Shellard feels his role as the Juggling Club and Student Council advisor has been a remarkable feature of the job. Shellard says one of the most memorable aspects of his position is the student connections he has formed over the decades.

“Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed with the detail work, I just have to walk out into the hallways or the Student Council room or the cafeteria and I get pumped up because it’s just interaction with kids,” Shellard said. “We have great students at South [and] great families in Glenview that create these wonderful people. That, [I will] miss.”

Dean Ronald Bean feels that he has formed a lifelong relationship with Shellard, his co-worker of eight years. After traveling to Las Vegas together, skiing in Crested Butte with one another and watching Shellard’s daughter dance as a pom in Orlando, their out-of-the-building bond is one Bean says is extremely important to him.

“I would consider him one of my closest friends,” Bean said. “I have a pretty small circle, but absolutely the things we have done inside the building has led to a very close and special relationship. […] Between our families, he stood up in my wedding, I am very close with both of his kids and with his brothers. […] I’ve been very lucky to have him be a part of my life.”

In terms of their collaboration over the years, Bean explained how Shellard typically addresses him when there is a spontaneous idea he would like to pursue. According to Bean, eight years of working with Shellard has helped him reflect on Shellard’s footprint that he will leave behind.

“[Shellard’s] heart and soul and spirit are a part of this building,” Bean said. “He has this ability to meet people where they are. He gives people a purpose and a role and a connection to this school. […] He finds a way to give people a reason to feel and to be a part of what’s going on here.”

According to Swanson, she believes one of his greatest impacts at South has not only been his presence for students who would like to become involved, but also his consideration toward those who may be having a bad day.

“There’s been days where I’ve been a little down or something, and he will usually do something totally ridiculous like licking my name plate in front of me just to do something weird,” Swanson said. “It makes me laugh. He’s super sensitive and aware of [our] feelings.”

While Shellard’s impact on the culture of South is widely recognized, senior John Schurer, student body president, says Shellard has personally acquainted him with many new lessons. One of these lessons, Schurer explained, was Shellard’s philosophy that the inevitable result of over planning is messing up.

“[Shellard] says, ‘Learning how to do things on the fly is one of the most important skills I’ve learned and that I can teach you,’” Schurer said. “When it comes to the sports assemblies, he won’t give me the script until either late the day before or the day of and that’s because he just wants me to […] have a good time with it. He doesn’t want me sitting at home memorizing it for a 30 minute window.”

As for his upcoming retirement, Shellard says while he has made plans with his daughter such as climbing Mount Adams in Washington, he is excited to have time to refocus. Though Shellard says he will visit for Homecoming and V-show preparations when appropriate, he hopes his absence will not disturb the collaborative environment South has established.

“The strength of this school and what makes it stand out is the strength of the relationships between [people in the building] and I hope that will continue, and I hope students will continue to look out for each other and be kind to each other,” Shellard said.

According to Schurer, Shellard’s diligently executed work around South will be appreciated by  his successors. Schurer explained that he hopes Shellard’s years of devotion are countered with a new sense of relaxation in retirement.   

“After 24 years of Shellard as our [SAO director], and three years before that teaching biology, I think there is nobody in the world more deserving of a long break,” Schurer said. “So I hope Dr. Shellard finds time for himself because over the last two and a half decades, he’s truly given a large majority of his time to the students.”

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The news site of Glenbrook South High School
Shellard retires after 27 years of serving South community