From Engineer to Educator: Assistant Principal Shelli Hemerson’s Circuitous Journey to BOHS


Alexis Alexander

Shelli Hemerson, assistant principal, in her office. Hemerson uses her background in engineering, teaching, and coaching to foster community building as assistant principal.

Assistant principal Shelli Hemerson’s path to high school leadership was a circuitous one. 

After devoting a decade to electrical engineering with AT&T, Hemerson began to realize that she “only liked the work because it was challenging.” But the challenges of the profession were not satisfying, which led to an epiphany — Hemerson would pursue a more fulfilling career: education.

The pivot was prompted by an unexpected influence: football. While working as an engineer Hemerson coached her son’s youth football team, where she got a glimpse of what fulfilling work looked and felt like. Coaching ignited her passion for working with children, and witnessing the “growth and change” in her young athletes inspired her journey into education.

The transition from a long career in engineering to becoming a full credentialed teacher was an arduous process, involving graduate school-level coursework, many hours of observation, and a full semester of student teaching. Hemerson struggled to balance her role as an engineer, fulfilling the obligations of attaining a teaching credential, and taking care of her two young children at home (who are now 23- and 26-years old.)

Because of this, Hemerson’s days felt “very long” as she juggled numerous responsibilities into her schedule. “I would get up in the morning, get my kids ready for school or daycare, drop them off, go to work as an engineer, go to the field, do whatever sport we were doing, come home, and put the kids to bed,” she said.

After those tasks were completed, Hemerson would “work on [her] schoolwork and homework from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. or midnight every night.” 

Though Hemerson was challenged with a busy schedule, one thing remained constant — her love for football. Outside of her career, Hemerson found comfort in watching her favorite team, the Oregon Ducks, compete. “I specifically started following them because former kids were playing college football,” she said.

The kind of growth I get to see in my students [is] just so awesome to me, because I know how much hard work it took for them to get where they are today.”

— Shelli Hemerson, Assistant Principal

Ultimately, all of her hard work paid off when Hemerson earned a multi-subject teaching credential from National University in 2003. Securing the credential compelled her to finally leave her engineering job. Although she enjoyed being an engineer, she “didn’t find much value in it,” which made the transition into a new career in education less jarring. 

The process of switching from an engineer to teacher came naturally for Hemerson. “Working in education is something I wanted to do and I loved working with kids, so the transition wasn’t too difficult,” she said. However, becoming a teacher did require a different mindset. “I had to shift from this corporate mentality to an educational mentality where your customers are your students,” Hemerson said. 

Working closely with students, Hemerson was able to shape her perspective of how to effectively help students with their academic lives. 

After teaching sixth grade at Running Springs Elementary for five years, Hemerson switched to seventh and eighth grade science at El Rancho Charter School. 

“Because El Rancho was a charter school, I was able to participate in a lot of administrative and leadership tasks which helped me have a better understanding of student’s needs and the strategies to support them,” Hemerson said. Being involved in these tasks has allowed her to gain a different perspective of guiding students when not in the classroom.

Eventually, after 18 years of teaching, Hemerson felt as if she had “done everything [she] could possibly do as a teacher to learn and grow.” She said, “I’m the kind of person that always wants to develop, and doesn’t like to remain stagnant in whatever I do.”

Hemerson avoided that stagnancy by earning a second credential in foundational sciences in 2009, and an administrative credential in 2016, which would enable her to assume leadership duties outside of the classroom.

Throughout her years of teaching, Hemerson observed the common needs of students and has educated herself in ways that she can provide an effective learning environment. She noticed the importance of a community and how it can impact a student. And by becoming assistant principal, she knew that she would be able to help students build communities. “I don’t think that kids today can be successful in anything they want if they don’t have that community support,” she said.

Now, as assistant principal at BOHS, Hemerson oversees the counselors as they support students in meeting the A-G requirements and CTE pathways. 

Witnessing students who were once failing classes to ultimately applying for college has been especially rewarding for Hemerson. “The kind of growth I get to see in my students [is] just so awesome to me, because I know how much hard work it took for them to get where they are today,” she said. 

Drawing from her roles as engineer, teacher, administrator, mom, and youth football coach, Hemerson uses the lessons she’s learned and skills she’s acquired over the years to advance the mission of BOHS’s guidance department. Her overall goal for BOHS: Build a community for students, a place where they can learn and grow. 

“It really does take a village to help kids get to where they want to be and work to their potential and beyond,” Hemerson said.