A “Lighter Side Up” Q & A:
Getting to Know Terry Shay
Hello, everyone! Welcome to my VERY FIRST “Lighter Side Up” Q&A! I am VERY excited about today’s perfect guest to christen my new blog and celebrate International Dot Day 2014! (See “Important Update” and for further celebration, my first Dot on Writer Side UP!) I’m sure, especially after hearing more about Terry, you’ll have questions and comments he’d love to address!
Not ’til recently, while researching as much as I could about Peter H. and Paul A. Reynolds, did I finally come to find out who Terry Shay is. I’d seen his name and handle on Twitter many times, but never got to investigating. Well—now I know!
Naturally, Peter H. Reynolds is the first person we speak of when we mention International Dot Day because he wrote and illustrated The Dot, the extraordinary book this day is based on. I am now happily aware that the person who should be mentioned in the same breath is Terry Shay. He is inseparable from the Day itself. “Why?” you may wonder. Because the “Dot Day” celebration of creativity is his brainchild! That’s right! Int’l Dot Day would not exist if not for him.
In recent years, the test-obsessed environment in the educational system here in the U.S. has gotten even more obsessive, further decreasing an atmosphere of creativity in our schools. Terry and Peter have a mutual dislike for this disconcerting trend which is why, when Terry suggested creating a day which encouraged children to “stop what they were doing and just CREATE,” Peter was in full agreement. Int’l Dot Day came to fruition and has grown exponentially since its conception in 2009. As of this posting, there are close to 1.7 million participants worldwide and the ticker just keeps climbing! (2015: nearly 4 million!)
And that’s not all! In 2011, author Sharon Creech (one of Terry’s all-time favorites) created a dot and sent it to him. Again, his insightfulness kicked in. He immediately realized that the creating of dots—the book’s metaphor of bravery in putting oneself “out there;” to “make your mark” and see where it takes you—if done by authors, illustrators and other celebrities, could have an inspirational impact on children. Terry created the idea of what has become Celebri-Dots. The level of creativity displayed on the site’s pages is more than impressive, including those made by authors who don’t consider themselves artistically creative. They were mistaken, thus further proving the point of the day!
Along with being a high school vocal music instructor and faculty member at Upper Iowa University-Waterloo Center where he teaches Intro to Computers and a class, Computers and Instructional Technology, Terry works with Fablevision, Peter and Paul Reynolds’ company. He is the Lead Ambassador for their educator program, Ambassadors for Fablevision Learning, and also wrote lessons that are included with Animation-Ish® Educator Version.
During this past week, the overall tone of my dealings with the people at Fablevision has not been surprising. Their genuine passion, generosity and consideration is evident, and I can’t help but think, regardless of where they reside around the globe, they somehow breathe the same sweet air 🙂 That is why, when I told Terry my Q&A with Peter and Paul understandably needed to be postponed, he didn’t hesitate offering to complete his Q&A much sooner than we’d expected. Because of that, we now have the pleasure of getting to know Terry Shay just a little bit better, and I couldn’t be happier about it:
So now that we’re settled in and comfy, let’s begin…
When you were a kid and weren’t busy with schoolwork or chores, which were your favorite pastimes? Games? Toys? TV shows? Movies?
- I wasn’t a big reader as a kid, something I’ve really made up for in adulthood. I liked to ride a mini-bike and snowmobiles in the winter. I don’t do either of those things now.
DM: So now your need for speed has become your need to read 😉
As an adult?
- If I have free time now, I like to spend it reading, interacting with far-off friends via social media, or spending time with my wife.
DM: Sounds great to me!
Some of the most vivid memories from childhood are favorite books. Which ones are the most memorable for you?
- The book I remember the most from childhood was The Snowy Day.
DM: It obviously made an impression just like Peter, the main character’s, footprints in the snow 🙂
I know my pile of books-to-be-read is high. Yours may be, too! Which book/s are you reading now?
- Well, lately I’ve spent most of my time gearing up for International Dot Day. The last book I read was Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. It comes out in February and is just so extraordinary. I believe it will be life changing for some kids.
DM: I, too, adore Lynda’s writing! One for the Murphys is one of my favorites; I’m SO excited about her February release, now even more so due to your comment!
As a reader, so much of the experience is to vicariously walk in another’s shoes. If you could be the main character in a story, which character would you be?
- I think I’d like to be Harry Potter…That flying broom would be pretty amazing!
DM: I am SO with you on this!
For anyone who’s had exposure to cartoons, whether through television, movies or comics, we can’t help having one or more favorite cartoon characters. Which were—and are—your favorites?
- Bugs Bunny in the Chuck Jones days. So clever!
DM: Another thing we have in common 🙂 Bugs has always been tops on my list. Let’s enjoy him together, in one of my favorite cartoons—with the gremlin!:
Though every minute of the day is a precious one, some tend to be more treasured than others—the times we most look forward to. When is your favorite time/s of day?
- The moments when I acquire a deeper level of understanding with a student or friend.
DM: What a beautiful sentiment, Terry…
I happen to be a Disney fanatic, to say the least. Not everyone is, but many people have visited Disney World. If you have, which are your favorite Disney World attractions? If not, which were your favorite carnival and boardwalk games and rides? Feel free to answer both! 🙂
- I’ve never been to Disney World, but did go to Disneyland. I loved “Pirates of the Caribbean” …potentially because it was really cool and also because it was cool and 96 degrees outside!
DM: No doubt, two perfect reasons! 😀
Time spent with family is something to be cherished, from snuggling while sharing a favorite book to meal time to a camping trip. What type family activities are your favorite?
- My wife and I love to take impromptu trips. We just hop in the car and head out for a day or two (or four). I always have a bag packed for such times.
DM: I, too, find it’s often the impromptu things that turn out the best 🙂
Can we ever say enough about the importance of music and its integral role in our lives? I can’t imagine life without it! I find it very difficult to narrow down my list of favorites, but there are always those musical artists and songs that bubble to the surface anytime I’m asked. For you, which musical artists and songs often rise to the top?
- As a music teacher, it’s a bit hard to narrow down, but my two all-time favorite songs are “True Colors” by Cyndi Lauper (the raw emotion in her voice & the meaning behind the song) and “For Good” from Wicked. I often think of the song “For Good” when I think of Peter H. Reynolds and my FableVision friends…they certainly changed me for good.
DM: I just realized how apropos “True Colors” is for Dot Day 🙂 And it doesn’t surprise me that Peter and the others at Fablevision would have that kind of effect. How wonderful!
You have many talents we, the public audience, know about, but chances are you have others! Do you have any unusual or unknown talents you care to share with us?
- I think my talents are fairly well known…I’m sort of a what you see is what you get person.
DM: Best kind of person, in my opinion 😀
There’s something very satisfying about sandwiching something between two pieces of bread. Which sandwich/es do you eat most often?
- Ham and cheese
DM: Yummy! One ham and cheese, coming right up! I’ll melt the cheese, too 😉
When that sugar craving strikes, which candy bar/s would you storm the convenience store to buy?
- Oddly enough, I don’t like chocolate and don’t really care for sweets that much. I will occasionally eat Swedish Fish because one of my students got me hooked on them, but fish are healthy, right?
DM: Hmmm…are they vitamin fortified? 😉
I’m a lover of quotes, from the silly to the sublime! Do you have any favorites?
- My favorite quote is “It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness”
DM: Love this one. So simple yet so profound. Such a perfect metaphor about making the positive change to better a negative situation 🙂
It’s common to be drawn to more than one profession. Other than yours, which profession would you like to attempt? Never attempt?
- Watching all the talented illustrators I am connected to, I wish I had more artistic talent.
DM: That’s very understandable, Terry. You’re surrounded by some of THE best!
Time travel is a popular genre, probably because most of us have wondered what it would be like to live in a time other than our own. Given the chance to experience any time in history, in which era and whose company would you choose to be?
- I’m happy being where I am right now.
DM: How delightful to here that! And I’m happy for you that you are 😀
In reading a little bit about you, I couldn’t help but wonder: although you are a music teacher, your academic involvement with students goes beyond music. You first discovered Fablevision through their “Stationery Studio” program which is designed to inspire kids (and adults!) to express themselves through art and writing. This falls under “Language Arts.” Can you tell us a little bit about what you teach, and what drives your passion for teaching?
- I teach 5-12 Vocal Music, Intro to Computers, and Intro to Web Design. I have the very best students in the world and they are the reason I do what I do. My passion is creativity and I’m able to feed that every day.
DM: And you are also able to inspire it every day 🙂
Do you recall when you first discovered Peter’s bookThe Dot?
- When I found out Peter was coming to Iowa for the ITEC Conference, I read about him and bought his books. I couldn’t believe someone was as amazing as his books are, but he definitely is.
DM: I’ve gotten this impression myself, and have heard this same sentiment from everyone I’ve come in contact with who knows Peter. It’s refreshing and heartwarming to know. I don’t think anyone could create what he does, in the many ways he does, and not be genuine 🙂 (Addition: since writing this post, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Peter and he IS that wonderful 😀)
Being a music teacher, how did you incorporate the book into your classroom before Dot Day existed?
- I believe The Dot should be in every classroom. I showed the movie before there ever was a Dot Day. Kids need to be inspired and encouraged to be creative.
DM: I’m sure everyone reading this post agrees with you, and you have become a great catalyst in that movement, having conceived of Int’l Dot Day!
I’m curious how Dot Day came to fruition because many a great idea never sees the light of day. How did you first meet Peter, and was it prior to or at the time you suggested Dot Day, having sensed what a special concept it was?
- It came into being after about three years of knowing Peter. We have a similar feeling about the current standardized test craziness and the idea of Dot Day was to help balance the scale and bring more creativity to schools. I mentioned the idea to Peter and he created a logo and sent it out to the world. The basic kernel of an idea may have been mine, but it has grown throughout the world because of amazing and caring educators who took the idea and made it their own. The success of Dot Day, ultimately, is because brave educators see a need for a different school atmosphere. Dot Day is the best thing that ever happened to me.
DM: I couldn’t be happier for you and all you say here is true. The craving for creativity, and its value, is evident with how young and old alike have embraced Int’l Dot Day, and I believe it will continue to grow exponentially!
As Lead Ambassador for Fablevision Learning, can you tell us what this job entails and what holding this position means to you?
- As Lead Ambassador, I get to work with the very best educators around the world. Ambassadors are passionate educators who carry the mission of FableVision Learning (helping all kids reach their true potential) out into the world. They truly are the best educators on the planet and they love creativity and have a passion for learning.
DM: And we out here are SO grateful for their and your passion!
- It’s really one of the few books I remember. I think it was just the beauty of the illustrations.
DM: And it seems you had a keen eye even at that age, seeing as it won the Caldecott medal the year it was released!
And, of course, I save my favorite question for last! In the world of Harry Potter, there is a magical room hidden within the walls of Hogwarts known as the Room of Requirement. What would be in your Room of Requirement?
- Really, Twitter is my Room of Requirement….there are creative people there whenever I need a boost.
DM: What a great answer! And I, too, think Twitter is a great “meeting” place. It’s my favorite as far as social media goes.)
Terry, I can’t thank you enough for taking out time from your busy life, and certainly your VERY busy weekend prior to Dot Day, to share a bit of your Lighter Side. What a treat for us! But before I release you back into the wild, I thought it prudent to make you aware that, although in this world you go by the name Terry Shay, I have been informed by Professor Poopypants that, in the world of “Silly,” you are known as Falafel Pizzabrains 😉
FOR MORE INTERESTING INFO ON TERRY SHAY:
- Terry’s Fablevision Profile Page
- Lead Ambassador for the educator program: Ambassadors for Fablevision Learning
- Interview with Katie Davis on her “Brain Burps About Books” Podcast
- “Celebri-Dots” Guest Post on Mr.Schu’s blog: Watch.Connect.Read.
CONNECT WITH TERRY:
THANK YOU FOR VISITING and I hope you have some comments and questions for Terry!…