Meet the CSO: Cindy Shinsky
August 02, 2018
Cindy Shinsky joined the Charter Schools Office early in 2018 to provide guidance on projects related to special education. She currently serves as an affiliate faculty member within the GVSU College of Education, Educational Leadership program, and has nearly 40 years of professional experience serving within charter and traditional school systems.
Cindy was born in California and moved to Ann Arbor with her family when she was ten. The family later relocated to Coldwater, which brought key experiences that eventually shaped Cindy’s career path. During her time in Coldwater, Cindy grew up with foster children in her home. Her father worked in a residential facility that housed individuals with moderate to severe disabilities. Cindy also served in the role of a “big sister” to one young woman who had a moderate cognitive impairment.
Additionally, Cindy was able to test her skills in the classroom well before earning her teaching certificate. She finished all of her high school courses ahead of schedule, so she spent much of the second semester of her senior year volunteering in an elementary school and assisting third and fourth-grade students.
Cindy enrolled at Michigan State University and graduated with her degree in Elementary Education with an emphasis on special education . From there, she held a variety of roles focused on special education, serving as Assistant Superintendent at two ISDs, Director of Special Education at two local districts and as a special education teacher. She also earned a Master’s in Special Education and an Education Specialist degree, both from Michigan State University. She and her husband, John, also were co-founders for the City of Children Orphanage in Matamoros, Mexico.
Just prior to joining GVSU, Cindy worked with National Heritage Academies, helping the organization develop a national vision and strategy focused on compliance with state and federal special education and Section 504 legislation, and provision of high quality services for students with disabilities.
We sat down with Cindy to learn a little more about her experiences and story:
What is a common misconception people have regarding special education?
A common misconception is that students with disabilities are not capable of performing at high levels. That is, people tend to focus more on the student’s disability than recognizing their abilities. There is often a presumption that because they have a disability they are just not going to do as well as other students. Many of our students with disabilities can thrive if provided appropriate support and quality delivery of instruction. Over the years, I have seen many students with disabilities thrive and do extremely well. We have to believe in them, their abilities and their potential.
What do you enjoy about working at Grand Valley?
I really like teaching and working with aspiring leaders. I am fortunate to teach an entry level Master’s degree class in Ed leadership and to have an opportunity to nurture the development of aspiring leaders through their administrative internship. There are just so many rewards that come from working with students and aspiring leaders. Having an opportunity to work with the GVSU Charter School Office has also been an amazing and highly rewarding experience as it allows me to continue to be involved in special education and to support GVSU schools. Working with the GVSU Charter School staff has been extremely rewarding, as they are a group of highly talented professionals focused on student success!
What is one highlight of your work in education?
Two highlights come to mind. I am very proud of the collaborative work I did at Calhoun ISD around development and implementation of the response to intervention framework, designed to support struggling leaners. I am equally proud of the work completed at National Heritage Academies focused on the development and implementation of special education and Section 504 systems designed to support special education compliance and quality practices across the national network of schools. Developing a quality and sustainable structure, and building an exceptional team that has made a significant impact on the lives of many children with special needs has truly been truly been a highly of my career.
What do you like to do for fun?
My favorite thing is to be with my grandchildren, husband and family. My grandchildren are five, seven and ten. I love watching them grow and being a part of their world. I also enjoy spending time with our children at our orphanage and being part of their lives. In my spare time I also enjoy cooking, sewing gardening and exercising. My newest hobby is to walk 4 to 5 miles each morning with a group of talented and inspirational women.