Member of Adelphi University’s Profiles in Success program.
Former Special Education Supervisor
Value of an Adelphi Education: “All the courses I took at Adelphi gave me such content about theorists in special education. In one of my classes a video was shown that made a real impact on me. A man offered advice to the physically challenged: ‘don’t make excuses. If you need to get up an hour earlier to get dressed, then do it.’ I was always able to pull from that throughout the years that I was teaching. There was something very special about the content areas Adelphi had to offer.”
Proudest Accomplishment: “In 2006, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer recommended me to serve on the Bellevue Hospital Center’s Community Advisory Board (CAB). Last year, CAB members elected me to receive the annual Marjorie Matthews Community Advocate Recognition Award for my volunteerism on behalf of the patients and their families at Bellevue.”
Advice to Adelphi Students: “Learn something new. Be fair and honest. Ask questions. Care about what you do. Seek out internships. Network, network. Travel outside your own community.”
Whether they are in the classroom or their neighborhood you can find the Winfields engaged in the life of the larger community—working to shape it for the better.
The couple met in 1971 at I.S. 29M (which later became the location of Hunter College High School). Shelley, who earned a bachelor’s degree in home economics from Howard University and had experience teaching clothing and textiles, joined the school’s faculty as a home economics teacher. Claude, a former engineer for Western Electric with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from New York University, took the job of math teacher. With a shared passion for their work and a desire to make a difference in the world around them, they were married in 1974.
Over the course of their lives, careers in education took them to different schools and in varied directions. Mrs. Winfield’s husband always thought he would teach math and science given his professional background, however, he found himself teaching English. “I taught so much reading and writing that I almost forgot about science!” says Mr. Winfield, who savored the chance to introduce young readers in the second grade to authors like Ezra Jack Keats. “Every book he introduced, I introduced to my students,” he says of Keats, an American picture-book maker who gave black children a central place in children’s literature.
Later down the road, an opportunity to teach speech and language changed Mrs. Winfield’s career trajectory in education as well. “I taught reading to special education students. I only did it for one year, but the experience made such an impression on me. Using an oral approach to teach reading, I saw students—who had never done so before—reading,” she says. “At that moment I decided…special education it is!”
After receiving a master’s degree in administration from Fordham University and a master’s in special education with a specialization in emotionally disturbed from Adelphi, her career culminated in the role of Supervisor of Special Education at Manhattan’s Robert Wagner Middle School, a position she held for nearly 15 years, until her retirement in 2002.
Similarly, her husband made a natural a transition into administration. With a master’s degree in elementary education and another in educational administration from City University, he joined Walt Whitman Middle School in Brooklyn, one of the largest middle schools in the city. He was responsible for 1900 kids, enrolled from 20 countries.
In this leadership capacity, he instituted progressive teaching principles—the same ones that guided his learning as a student at The Putney School in Vermont. “In the late 50’s, I was a black kid going through the progressive experience…being exposed to mathematics and language arts,” he says. So affected by his own education, he wanted to share the opportunities he received with future generations of students. “I was fortunate to go to preparatory school, and I wanted to give back,” he says.
As principal he created a learning environment centered on the students, and made it a priority to immerse them in the life of their community. “I took the kids outside of the building, and into local museums and art galleries,” says Mr. Winfield. “It wasn’t just about making the students a part of a community—it was about making the community better through their involvement in it.”
The Winfields practice what they teach. Longtime residents of Manhattan’s East Side, they are active participants in their vibrant neighborhood. Mrs. Winfield is a member of the parent advisory board for the National Dance Institute (NDI), a program her son participated in from P.S. 124M. She explains that the Winfields’ involvement began with their children Marie and Michael, now 35 and 31 respectively. “When our children were younger, we worked with schools and programs ours kids were affiliated with,” she says. And their participation in the community grew from there.
In addition to playing an integral role at NDI, Mrs. Winfield is also on the community advisory board for Bellevue Hospital and works on the donations committee at the Samuel J. Tilden Democratic Club. She and her husband are active in Democratic Party Politics, and both serve on the Manhattan County Committee. Since he retired in 1998, Mr. Winfield has volunteered at the Museum for African Art as a docent. “I’m constantly encouraging schools to come visit the museum,” he says. “I’m giving tours to the same kinds of kids I worked with throughout my career.” He is also vice-chairman on Community Board 6, and sits on the education, health & budget and homeless services committees.
The values of education and community involvement were instilled in Mrs. Winfield since childhood. “Her parents were community organizers,” says Mr. Winfield. “Wanting to give back to that experience always came naturally to Shelley.”
Mrs. Winfield’s mother graduated from high school in 1935 and pursued her higher education, earning her bachelor’s degree from Morgan State College in 1939 and a master’s degree at Teacher’s College at Columbia in 1955. “Talk about history, my parents lived through it,” says Mrs. Winfield, who recalls her mother’s career as an educator during segregation “when there was different pay for colored people and white people.” Her mother—a woman activist before her time— was one of the first to help form Local Union 3 in Philadelphia. “Later she joinied Al Shanker at the United Federation of Teachers, Local 1,” she says. “Recently my mother was honored as one of the first 50 UFTers to help build the union.”
Mrs. Winfield’s father, a 24-year veteran of the Philadelphia Police Department, was the founder and first president of the Guardian Civic League of Philadelphia, an organization that brought together policemen who were interested in civic betterment through close cooperation between the police and the communities which they serve. A civil rights activist for several decades, he also served as president of the North Philadelphia Action Branch of the NAACP and elected as State Representative from North Philadelphia.