Teacher who packs a punch in the boxing ring and hopes to compete in the Olympics is also a knockout in the classroom, inspiring kids to overcome behaviour issues
Talented boxer and probably the coolest teacher in town, Kim Shannon has a lot on her plate. She’s in the running for a place at the Commonwealth Games in 2018 and Tokyo Olympics in 2020 and in order to make the grade Kim commits to a punishing training schedule six evenings a week. By day the boxing champ inspires the city’s youngsters in a different arena – the classroom. The Values Academy in Hockley is no ordinary school and Kim is no ordinary teacher. Values is a small independent school specialising in providing children at risk of social exclusion with an education and vital life skills. Removed from mainstream education for a variety of reasons, pupils come to Values with behavioural issues – many are confrontational and have emotional problems. Kim has taught biology at the academy for six years straight from university and wouldn’t have had it any other way. She said: “The pay is perhaps lower than in mainstream education, but the experience I’ve gained here makes me a better teacher. The job is 40 per cent teaching and 60 per cent inspiring. We ensure that as well as giving them an education, the pupils leave here as good people too.”
The pupils are aware of Kim’s boxing, in fact she uses it to emphasise that if the youngsters want something badly enough they should go for it and follow their dreams. At home many of the pupils don’t have the support that most children take for granted, so Kim’s encouragement gives them a boost. “It’s great to know that you’re making a difference and opening up the student’s minds. It’s very rewarding,” she says. Values alumni have gone on to do well and there are many success stories. Kim recalls: “One pupil, whose social skills were so poor he could hardly speak, has gone on to university and has turned into a lovely young man.”
A lot of the kids at the school haven’t had any experience of sport so Kim has set up a scheme with a local gym where they are able to go once a week to use the facilities. As well as the obvious health benefits of exercise, the kids learn self-discipline too. Currently without funding or sponsorship, Kim is incredibly disciplined too. She has a 30-minute rest between the end of her school day and boxing training. This begins with a run from the Academy to the gym followed by two hours of intense training. On two nights per week Kim then runs a women’s boot camp session that ends at 9pm. She doesn’t grumble though. She has her sights firmly on the prize. Currently going through England contract and Team GB assessments, Kim is determined to get the call-up.