Leopard Look: Clarissa Shirley


Grace Gonzalez

Clarissa Shirley teaches photojournalism and is the adviser for the yearbook program. This is her first year teaching at the high school.

Clarissa Shirley traveled around the world and taught a now-famous student before taking over as yearbook adviser and photojournalism teacher this school year.

At A Glance:

Favorite drink: Dr. Pepper

Favorite book genre: Historical Fiction

Favorite subject to teach: Yearbook

Looking Deeper:

The Red Ledger: What is it like teaching at Lovejoy?

Clarissa Shirley: It’s pretty similar to the other schools I’ve taught in. At the end of the day, kids are kids. Since I’m new here, it’s a little challenging because I’m still learning the ropes.

TRL: How long have you been teaching?

CS: I think this is year 18, I started teaching in the late nineties.

TRL: Did you ever take a break from teaching?

CS: I did take a break for a few years where I started working for a travel company, and I worked for that company in Dallas, Portland, Oregon and Boston. I also did freelance film and TV for a year. Then I went back to teaching.

TRL: What brought you to the district?

CS: That’s actually kind of a long story. I left my previous job about four or five years ago because both of my parents were very ill. They were both diagnosed with dementia. One had Alzheimer’s and the other parent had something called vascular dementia. It was pretty evident that they could no longer live independently, so I basically moved in with them. I like to joke that I became a stay at home mom. When my dad passed away, unfortunately I lost him due to covid. My mom was also declining, so we put her in a facility and I knew it was time to go back to work and re-enter the workforce. 

TRL: Are there any students who have stuck out to you over the years?

CS: Definitely. I can think of a few off of the top of my head. I would say, I think one of my strengths is trying to build a relationship with my students, and I love keeping those connections even after they graduate.

TRL: Can you give an example of that?

CS: For example, I had some students send me flowers when my father passed away, and over this past summer I was invited to a wedding shower. I love that I get to see them grow up and start families.

TRL: Can you tell me about the girl who became a meme?

CS: I taught a student, her name was Brittany Tomlinson, she transferred to my school, I taught at Keller High School, and she was there for her junior and senior year. She was a big theater kid, really smart, I think she did mock trial and a bunch of other things. It was a long time ago. 

TRL: What was her personality like?

CS:  Big theater kid, does improv, accents, very clever. Funny. Hilarious- you have to spell that out. H-I-L-A-R-I-O-U-S. She actually played Grandma Addams in the Addams Family Musical, which I think is funny because we’re doing that musical now.

TRL: What got her famous?

CS: After she graduated college, she had a banking job and she just started playing on Tik Tok. She took a video of herself trying kombucha for the first time, and she just made really funny faces, and now she’s basically known as “kombucha girl”, and she has a massive following. She quit her job, has an agent, she’s in LA, she does comedy stuff now. 

TRL: What’s one of the most memorable moments in your life, as a teacher?

CS: This isn’t a moment, but a memorable period is when I lived in England and was teaching over there. I never really did the study abroad thing in college, so I started looking at opportunities [to move overseas]. 

TRL: What kind of opportunities?

CS: Teaching English in Asia and places was an option, but I wound up discovering that England had a teacher shortage, so they recruited overseas teachers. Typically, they would find teachers from commonwealth countries like Australia and Canada, but I slid under the radar. 

TRL: How long did you live there?

CS: I got a visa, I got a job, I stayed four years. They have year round school, so every six weeks we would get a break, and I’d go travel. For Christmas I skied the Austrian Alps, and for another Christmas I traveled all over Spain. I think I did New Years’ in Madrid, and then another Christmas I did the whole German Christmas markets and we ended up in Prague and Budapest. I did a river cruise in Budapest for New Year’s Eve.