D. Shellie Hyser

Shellie Hyser
Theatre Teacher at Central Cabarrus High School

Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Education, UNC Charlotte (2011)

Shellie Hyser attended UNC Charlotte as a non-traditional, adult student.

“I still remember my daughter being surprised when I got an A on my first math test and stuck it on the refrigerator,” she says. “I'd been a stay-at-home mom for 10 years, and she didn't realize I was smart.  Honestly, I don't think I knew it at the time, either.” 

While in college she crewed, stage managed, designed, wrote, acted in, and directed countless productions. She enjoyed coursework in costume and scenic design, play analysis, theatre history, performance, directing, education, and creative writing—all of which, she says, prepared her to pursue her dream career in teaching teenagers to make choices and tell their stories.

“I remember sitting in the audience of Our Country's Good during my first semester and feeling challenged by the content and language, unsure that I'd chosen the right path for myself. Theatre can do that sort of thing – challenge you to think outside your preconceived notions and see things from other perspectives. Soon, I was managing a full-time course load, production meetings, and rehearsals all while mothering two children and volunteering on the weekends with local speech and debate programs.” 

She graduated summa cum laude.

“It was a BIG moment. When I teach, it is the same. So many kids don't really understand their worth or capacity. I get to be that person who tells them they are smart and show them I believe in them.”

As the theatre teacher at Central Cabarrus High School, Shellie directs productions, produces the daily announcements broadcast, and coaches a small but mighty Speech and Debate team. She has earned her first diamond from the National Speech and Debate Association and coached numerous state champions and national finalists.

“Designing, building, painting, focusing, managing, acting, directing, crafting dramaturgy experiences, and even practicing a little arts administration gave me the skill set I would need to fully function as a high school theatre teacher,” she says.

Shellie’s children, Elizabeth and Perrin Kingaby, and her husband Evan are also 49ers. Elizabeth, a Levine Scholar, earned undergraduate degrees in theatre and political science and a Masters of Public Administration. Perrin is pursuing a degree in elementary education with a minor in theatre. Both have performed on the Belk stage in Robinson Hall.

“I am the first in my family to graduate from college, so my children's education and success feel very much like an extension of my own,” Shellie says. 

In a small department like UNC Charlotte’s Department of Theatre, Shellie says she got lots of attention.

“My professors always seemed to be available to sit with me through a puzzle. Dr. Elizabeth Murray, who had joined the faculty during my senior year, taught me one of the most important things I learned in college. She was new to the role and navigating unfamiliar territory – just like I was – but she was so calm. I still hear her voice in my head when I am pressing through a difficult situation: ‘We don't always have all the answers and that's okay – we can find them together.’" 

What’s her advice for students who, like her, are preparing to become theatre teachers?

“People will tell you that teaching is too hard. People will discourage you from following your passions.  Be brave. My advice is to study the teachers you are drawn to and dissect their techniques. Learn the material – yes. More importantly, learn how great teachers sit with you in the struggle. Trust yourself. Take risks. Lean in.”