I guess you can call it a lifelong “love of learning,” though I am sure some might characterize it a little differently. I am fortunate enough to have finished 23 years of formal education with all the accompanying joys, scars, all-nighters and degrees to prove it. I’m careful to call it formal education because I really haven’t stopped learning, studying, mentoring or teaching. And the truth is, I don’t think any of us should stop the quest for knowledge.
I love my job at Florida Blue, helping people and communities achieve better health. I am also invigorated when I walk onto the University of Miami campus each week where I am an adjunct faculty in the business school. I look forward to my sessions each semester on the campus of Florida Atlantic University with the Student ACEs program, to visiting at area middle schools with the Orange Bowl Youth Leadership Academy and to mentoring sessions at local high school through a number of local non-profits in which I’m active. Education is truly woven into so much of who I am and what I do. The truth is, I hadn’t truly understood that until I sat down to write this blog.
My early years in school were spent growing up in rural West Virginia. My teachers were our neighbors, my parents’ friends and the deacons in church. The good news is that our town knew teachers as “people,” not just the limited view of them as taskmasters and disciplinarians that some people may have. The bad news is that there were no secrets. What happened at school was everywhere. Lucky for me, all of my teachers knew that I had a natural curiosity. Along with my parents, they encouraged me to channel my energies into finding out “why and how.”
As I reflect on how my parents, teachers and education shaped me, I realize I have always wanted to learn, study, know and grow.Whether it was a text book in school, a cookbook, a fiction or non-fiction novel, an article on leadership or a book about world history or even one of my many hobbies, I have been “learning.” As much as I have gained from books, professors and others, I am reminded of how much I learn from others when I am “teaching.” My mother was a mentor with Take Stock in Children well into her 80s. When I briefly retired (after working for AT&T for 26 years and before joining Florida Blue in 2006), I spent one day a week as a Take Stock mentor in a South Florida high school and one day a week dictating/recording text books for Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D). Nowadays, I take tremendous pride and joy in helping share my zest for knowledge with my pride-and-joy, my 8-year-old grandniece.
Throughout high school, college, graduate school and in my PhD. program, including studying around the world, I have had the privilege of some incredible teachers. Teaching is so much more than simply explaining how to do something. It is about helping translate knowledge, skills, values and beliefs and helping shape a young or curious mind.
My own “education” is far from over, and I’m proud to be working to carry on a legacy of learning in so many aspects of my life.
Penny Shaffer is the South Florida Market President for Florida Blue, a leader in the state’s health industry. In this role, she leads the company’s regional plan for growing the business and the brand, as well as community, stakeholder and employee engagement. Penny is the recipient of numerous awards in health care and civic leadership, most recently the Power Leader of the Year from the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and the Claude Pepper Award in Healthcare from United Homecare. She leads and is active with a number of area non-profit and civic groups and is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Miami.