The Student News Site of Shawnee Mission Northwest


The Student News Site of Shawnee Mission Northwest


The Student News Site of Shawnee Mission Northwest


Worth The Tears

Shawnasea Host overcame struggles to become the theatre teacher she is today
Theatre teacher Shawnasea Host sits at her desk Nov. 28 in Room 6. (Annamarie Torres)

Shawnasea Holst played poker in the back of math class when she was 16-years-old. She gambled with the loose change from her car’s ashtray while her algebra teacher tried to get the other kids to solve for X. Holst, now the theatre teacher at Shawnee Mission Northwest, paid no attention to what her teacher was saying.

She was bad at math. 

Her mom was bad at math. 

It was genetic — at least, that’s what Holst had been told by her parents nearly all her life. What could the teacher do about it? She was destined to fail. 

And she accepted it. She stopped trying because trying was pointless. She retook the same algebra class over and over again, never trying, never getting any better. 

It continued that way until her guidance counselor told her there was no way she would ever go to college with her math grades. 

And that’s when Holst said, watch me. 

Neither of her parents graduated high school, her sister nearly dropped out at 18 when she had a baby, and they were renting because of the high prices for homes in San Diego, California, where they lived.

She didn’t want to go through the same struggles her family faced when she grew up. She wanted to have a family on her own time, support herself independently and buy a home.

Choosing to apply herself in math was the first step down the path that led Holst to become who she is today. 

“Once I got it into my head that I don’t have to accept, ‘Genetically, I’m bad at math. Genetically, I’m not smart enough,’ it opened everything,” Holst said. “And I could try harder. And it was worth it, to just keep seeing how far I could go.”

This path wasn’t always clear to her, though. At 16 she thought she might try to make it into real estate — that was aiming high. 

And to do that, she at least needed to graduate. And to graduate, she needed to pass math.  

So Holst scraped herself together, took a remedial pre-algebra summer class, and… she did well. When she tried, it no longer seemed impossible. 

It gave her confidence. Maybe she wasn’t destined to fail. 

Junior year, Holst took algebra once again. This time, she passed by the skin of her teeth. She used every retake opportunity, went to all the tutoring sessions and stayed after school. She had a C, and it was a hard-earned C. 

College wasn’t something anybody expected of Holst. It was never a part of her family. But it was her senior year that she realized that she’d need to go to college to become what she was meant to be. 


Holst is now the theatre teacher at Shawnee Mission Northwest. She selects casts, organizes rehearsals and directs plays. 

“I have the best job in the world,” Holst says.

Back when Holst was a senior in high school, her school hired a new theatre teacher — one that looked great on paper but wasn’t very professional. The new teacher let students call her by her first name, brought her purse dog to class and asked Holst, her lab assistant, to do all the work a real teacher would do: grading papers, making lesson plans, and leading the class. In less than two months, Holst had unofficially become the primary teacher. 

“If I hadn’t had a bad teacher,” Holst said. “Then I wouldn’t have realized that I had it within me to . And I realized that all my gifts, the gifts that I did have, lined up perfectly with teaching.” 

Holst earned a masters and bachelors degrees from UC Riverside. She took a year off to work full time and then moved to Kansas with her then boyfriend now husband, Paul Holst. In Kansas, Holst attended K-State and earned her second bachelor’s degree. She taught theatre at Hocker Grove middle school for 10 years before moving to Northwest two years ago. 

She is the first in her family to go to college, and part of her wants to get her doctorate just to see how far she can go. Holst is also the first in her family to buy her own home and keep it.

“And everything I did, really going all the way back to taking those math classes in summer, was, ‘How can I make better potential to not have to work as hard as my family had to?’” Holst said. “But the irony is, I’m now working 60 hours a week, and I’m working really hard. But I love every minute of it.”

“I would much rather do this than real estate,” Holst said, laughing. 

She thinks students always assume that teachers were perfect as students — super smart, brainiac Ravenclaws that loved all things school. But that isn’t always true and wasn’t the case for Holst. 

Yet she found her passion and pursued it. 

“I got through it to do what I was destined to do,” Holst said. “I’m here now. And I got through the hard stuff because I pushed for it, because I wanted this so bad. It was worth the tears.”

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