McKINNEY — Shelby Scott never really knew what she was made of until she walked into Debbie Bennett’s creative writing class as a 7th grader at Faubion Middle School last year.

To be sure, Shelby arrived with a knack for the written word, and a day rarely passed when she couldn't be found, pen in hand, bent over a notebook scratching out her thoughts on paper.

But, it was in Bennett’s writing class that Shelby began to feel like she really had something to share, that her her skill with a pen was a gift to be nurtured and offered to others – that she was good at it. She had found her niche.

Now an 8th grader, and once again a creative writing student under Bennett’s tutelage, Shelby has been sharing her writing beyond the classroom.

This week, she earned first place in the The Honesty and Integrity Award category of the Poetry Society of Texas’ state contest, and earlier this month, she won recognition in the Barnes & Noble “My Favorite Teacher” contest by writing about the educator who inspired her.

“[Mrs. Bennett’s class] was the only class where I never felt awkward and out of place,” Shelby wrote. “She brought out the creativity in me I didn’t realize I contained. She always has activities that let us learn, but at the same time, allow us to be ourselves. Being in this class is the reason that I don’t feel so untalented anymore. I am able to let out my emotions and thoughts through true, authentic writing.”

The contest called for sixth through 12th grade students to write a poem, essay or letter (Shelby combined all three) about a teacher who has made a significant impact on them. Bennett said that about 35 Faubion students entered the contest.

“I encouraged all of my kids to enter the contest but to write about any teacher – from elementary teachers to teachers all over Faubion,” said Bennett, who deflects any recognition to Shelby. “They wrote about many different teachers. Shelby won, and she wrote about me, so that allowed me to win.”

At 1 p.m. on April 12, Bennett and Shelby will be recognized together at the Barnes & Noble location in Frisco. Shelby will receive a certificate of recognition. Bennett will be entered into the regional competition from which five winners will be chosen. Regional winners move on to the Barnes & Noble National Teacher of the Year contest.

Whatever future recognition that Bennett receives is riding on Shelby’s essay.

“Every time I read her heartfelt words,” said Bennett, “I am just overcome with emotion. It’s very well written, and it’s so heartfelt. You can’t help but read it and feel so drawn to her, and I think that’s why she won.”

Shelby, in return, points the credit back to Bennett. “It took Mrs. Bennett’s writing class to see my special gift in writing. Only a true, devoted teacher can turn an insecure 12 year old into a confident young adult.”

For additional information on McKinney ISD, contact Shane Mauldin, MISD Communications Coordinator, at 469-302-4007 or


About McKinney ISD

One of the fastest growing school districts in Texas, the McKinney Independent School District currently enrolls more than 24,750 students in 20 elementary schools, five middle schools, three high schools, four alternative schools and one early childhood education school. The mission of McKinney ISD, the champion for progressive learning throughout the diverse McKinney community, is to inspire and equip all students to explore, develop and express their unique potential as innovators, critical thinkers and collaborators through challenging, engaging and diverse learning experiences in vital partnership with the community. Visit the district's website at