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Posted on Tue, Jul 5, 2011 : 5:58 a.m.

Former students of Pioneer High School teacher Vicki Shields support her following MTV's 'Made' controversy

By Kyle Feldscher

After Pioneer teacher Vicki Shields came under fire for her role on an episode of MTV’s “Made,” several former students spoke out to defend one of their favorite teachers.

Shields became the main antagonist in the show, which featured Pioneer graduate Emma Hamstra’s transformation from “preppy poet” to rapper. Shields hosted Hamstra in her African American Humanities class for her to explain why she wanted to become a rapper and the episode showed Hamstra saying she felt “blindsided” by the questions from students and Shields, and running out of the class crying.

Kirby Lee, a student at Western Michigan University and 2010 Pioneer graduate, said the show didn’t give viewers the real sense of what Sheilds is like as a teacher.


Pioneer High School teacher Vicki Shields, shown here on MTV's 'Made"

Courtesty of MTV's Made

“She’s a great teacher and a great person and I think it’s unfair to judge someone from a MTV show,” he said. “No one really knows what went on in the class other than the people in it.”

The stories of how Shields, faculty sponsor of the Anime Club at Pioneer, came to be involved in the episode differ — Hamstra said she asked to meet one on one with the teacher and then was invited to come to the class while Shields contends that the show’s producers asked her to bring Hamstra in.

Shields said she began receiving hate mail and calls for her to resign from community members immediately after the episode aired. However, rumors that Shields has been asked to resign by school officials have been repeatedly denied.

Many members of the Ann Arbor community have spoke in support of Shields, including Pioneer teacher Jeff Kass, who called her an “incredibly important voice at Pioneer” at Wednesday’s school board meeting.

Immediately after the show aired, Shields told that the show had been edited to make the classroom incident more controversial that it was. Lee said he believed Shields’ contention because it didn’t reflect the teacher he knew in school.

Lee, who is black, said Shields has always had a strong opinion but was very open to discussing others’ points of view. He said Shields challenged her students to think outside of their own worlds.

“She taught me to open my mind about things more,” he said. “Being in high school, a lot of us kind of had a box around our minds and what we think about. She helped open your mind and realize what’s going on around you in society.”

Made controversy

Here are some stories regarding the Made episode that aired last week featuring Emma Hamstra

Although the discussion about race in the "Made" episode seems contentious, Shields’ former students said they never felt uncomfortable talking about race in her class.

Timothy Clendenin, a University of Michigan student who also graduated from Pioneer in 2010, said he had Shields for two classes and the students in the classes were able to have productive conversations on a regular basis. Clendenin, who is white, said he and other white students never felt accused or intimidated in Shields’ class.

He characterized Shields as “very open and friendly” and always willing to continue discussions with students after class was over.

“We were in an African American Humanities class. There was no reason to feel uncomfortable,” Clendenin said. “I always felt fine there and all the other white people in there also usually felt fine. No one felt like a victim or were intimidated.”

However, not everything Shields did in her classes was a discussion of race, said Jessica Obidicke, another 2010 Pioneer graduate who is attending Michigan.

Obidicke described Shields’ class as a learning experience where she found out a lot about the world around her and how she felt about different issues. She said Shields made her classes fun and “there was no class like hers.”

“She really personalized her classes and gave it a twist,” Obidicke said. “People came to the class and liked to learn.”

Kyle Feldscher covers K-12 education for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.



Sat, Jul 9, 2011 : 4:57 a.m.

I'd like to see some quotes from the white students she ridiculed, the ones she called blue eyed devils and threatened bad grades because they were white. I'd like to see quotes from people who dared to disagree with her. Oh well, I guess we can't really count on for quality journalism, the Pioneer Optimist even scoops them on occasion.


Tue, Jul 5, 2011 : 11:15 p.m.

I have no doubt she has supporters -- this does not matter -- there is no disguising what is going on here -- a double standard-- no different than affirmative action. There is such indoctrinization here it is really quite amazing that so called educated people are espousing this idea. Wh y a second article-- is it because she is black? Racism permeates this who;e situation and Ms Shields is at the center of this -- she is the reason a d not a T V show. The show depicted here the way she is -- Ms Shields just does not like the view -- nor to many on the left side of the political coin -- but facts are very hard to get away from. Also, I guess we are not to believe our lyin' eyes.


Tue, Jul 5, 2011 : 11:52 p.m.

Second article? Dude, this is the fourth.


Tue, Jul 5, 2011 : 5:31 p.m.

We tend to discuss the issue of race, and color without coming to a basic understanding about man's true identity and individuality. We need to first learn as to how man knows his own identity. Man is a multicellular organism and how does this organism establish its identity as an individual to achieve functional unity? Trillions of cells have to functionally subordinate themselves for the benefit of this individual. How do these cells which form various organs, and tissues identify the individual? If the cells use race or color to establish identity of the individual, would it be possible to transplant organs and tissues while the donor and the recipient have different race or color identity?


Thu, Jul 7, 2011 : 6 p.m.

I am not contesting your view that we must learn about Afro-American experience. Humanities may have a basic objective to eliminate narrow-mindedness. We need to open our minds to noble thoughts from all directions. At a higher stage of learning, a student for his master's or doctoral degree may have to choose a very small field of human accomplishment.

say it plain

Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 11:40 p.m.

Right, and the accomplishments and voices of the European Renaissance tends to be well covered in 'classic' humanities courses lol. While African Americans had been prevented from learning how to read by the slaveholder society that the US had protected for a century. I think in part that means there were some interesting stories to tell by the time the Harlem Renaissance writers were around, just to say. Biology and sociology aren't the same discipline, I guess is my point, and the achievements/expressions of German artists and thinkers come from humans who had a different set of experiences and back-stories. Also worthy of study, but maybe it is reasonable to have different courses dedicated to each, I guess is my point. It does not deny the one-ness of humanity to consider the experiences of various people and communities of people in time.


Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 4:01 p.m.

Thank you. A2 Citizen has given a very simple analogy to understand the human being. If the study of humanities is comparable to the study of automobiles, we should learn the contributions made by African-American workers while we also learn about contributions made by German workers. If the course is called Humanities, we should not miss the opportunity to learn about European Renaissance.


Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 4:38 a.m.

Well, imagine your cells are a part of the car (transmision, or brakes, or spark plug). The car won't run properly with out any of them, but do the brakes really care what color the car is painted? And how important is the color to the spark plugs?

say it plain

Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 2:46 a.m.

Oh, I get some more of your line of thought now I think... I think that perhaps the term 'humanities' is also misleading a bit here, and I can see how it feels funny juxtaposed with the added "african american" lol. I really don't know the content of this course, but I presume it might attempt to cover many aspects of what we classically term 'humanities', that is, language/literary expression, and musical expression, and artistic expressions of other kinds as well. Plus, I presume, some social/historical context for these. Thus, it can stand in contrast to a purely literature course titled, say, african-american literature. I just don't see this as a problem, or as somehow taking away from our celebration of humanity generally, to look at the variety of expressions through historical time of people who identify/were identified as "african american" or as "black", and to appreciate them or try to hear the voices and the messages contained therein.


Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 1:49 a.m.

Thanks for your kind reply. We need to place Biology in the first place to come to a correct understanding about human organism and as to how it functions in nature. So, we need to direct this conversation about race and identity towards a proper understanding of the status of man in nature. Kindly explore the Immune functions of the human body to know the defense mechanisms that the body uses to identify self and distinguish it from foreign proteins and substances. The body deploys unique molecules to defend itself and in this function body displays the abilities of recognition, memory, and a response very specific to the nature of the stimulus; the foreign protein or substance that evoked the response. Depending upon histocompatability, people of all races can safely help each other by organ donations and the most frequently used donation is that of Blood donation. There is no scientific basis for our identity in terms of skin color, shape of the nose or lips, or of anthropometric measurements. We need to get rid of the burden imposed by racist attitudes and racist culture. Humanities Class must celebrate the accomplishments of entire humanity and not of particular divisions/classes/categories of people.

say it plain

Tue, Jul 5, 2011 : 6:02 p.m.

Interesting perspective; I like how it challenges the idea of race in the first place, as being thought of as we too often do as somehow 'essential' to an individual, when 'really', how is race even associated with an individual?! Where does it lie within the organism, each of us composed of so much extra-'ourselves' microorganism cellular material that live with us as part of us it in some 'relevant to identity' part of our cell structures? It's hard to imagine such a thing. And even harder to imagine that it is somehow measurable, or relevant, to the functioning of an organism, aside from characteristics that serve as 'markers' to the other human beings in our environment. But it seems to figure so much into our ideas about identity, perhaps given those blinders our very own biology put on us in the first place, sigh...


Tue, Jul 5, 2011 : 5:11 p.m.

Without more information it's difficult to know what this controversy is all about. Were there racially-tinged comments? How was the student "blind-sided". Maybe there were previous articles that gave more detail but you shouldn't have to do a google search to understand a news atory

Kyle Feldscher

Tue, Jul 5, 2011 : 5:16 p.m.

PeteM- There is a box of links to the three previous stories I've written about this 'Made' episode. It is about halfway through the story. Thanks for reading.


Tue, Jul 5, 2011 : 4:54 p.m.

I didn't see any controversy. The show was obviously edited for dramatic effect, but what I saw was a teacher leading a courageous conversation about race. The students and teacher seemed very passionate about their views which obviously made Emma very uncomfortable. I hope the experience made Emma stronger and better prepared to handle such discussions in the future. Rather than talking about resignation, we should be talking about giving Ms. Shields a bonus. Very few teachers would have the guts to lead a discussion on race let alone in front of cameras. My hat is off to Ms. Shields. Keep up the good work. I only hope my kids(who are white) have the opportunity to take your class when they arrive at Pioneer in a few years.


Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 3:36 p.m.

Not with you on this one, it wasn't that courageous, it was pointed, you young lady, have no idea what you are talking about and I just said that in front of thousands of viewers....

Terry Star21

Tue, Jul 5, 2011 : 3:56 p.m.

Ms. Shields is a class act. I knew her in high school as a track athlete/captain, as a coach and as a professional teacher. She is honest, straight forward, experienced, and adds a touch of (needed) humor to her teachings which is the sign of a great educator. Now on the other hand, Max Peters and thecompound have good points about some programs and additional consultants, which I support if the school are in the black. However, when you sacrifice freshman sports participation, which is well known for teaching respect, leadership, sportsmanship, teamwork, discipline, etc., which prepare teens for adult life - that is a problem.


Tue, Jul 5, 2011 : 3:30 p.m.

it's kind silly that girl had to go to queen victory to be granted permission to rap.

say it plain

Tue, Jul 5, 2011 : 3:04 p.m.

I wish would stop this stuff... It seems to me they cover these issues related to race in the most superficial way possible, missing all sorts of clear opportunities to address difficult topics in an interesting and useful way. Stop with the titillation already and drop stories you don't have anything substantive to add to in this domain. I feel bad for everyone involved in this silly construction of pretend controversy for reality TV. But it's totally predictable.


Tue, Jul 5, 2011 : 1:04 p.m.

"However, rumors that Shields has been asked to resign by school officials have been repeatedly denied." How laughable is this? If school officials didn't ask an administrator who had a program that was blatantly against state law to resign, why would anyone think they would ask someone to resign over this? Again, laughable!


Tue, Jul 5, 2011 : 3:37 p.m.

it would be racist to fire a black teacher


Tue, Jul 5, 2011 : 12:55 p.m.

So three ex-students (one black, one white and one ??) say all is well. Glad we got that settled!


Tue, Jul 5, 2011 : 12:48 p.m.

Academics and MTV are both (Liberal), Progressive Organizations that seek to promote that "life choice". Its interesting to see what happens when their Worlds Collide or is exposed to light! This Summer on Pay per View see : Hamstra vs Shields in the I want to be Black/No you can't classroom battle!

Wolf's Bane

Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 12:27 p.m.

xmo, For your information: Academics: An academic is a person who works as a researcher (and usually teacher) at a university, college, or similar institution in post-secondary (tertiary) education. He or she is nearly always an advanced degree holder. In the United States, the term academic is approximately synonymous with that of the job title professor although in recent decades a growing number of institutions are also including academic or professional librarians in the category of "academic staff." Mtv: MTV has spawned numerous sister channels in the U.S. and affiliated channels internationally, some of which, like the former MTV Tempo now known as TEMPO Networks, have gone independent. MTV's moral influence on young people, including issues related to censorship and social activism, has been a subject of debate for years. MTV's choice to focus on non-music programming has also been contested relentlessly since the 1990s, demonstrating the channel's previous impact on popular culture. Where your supposed liberal agenda plugs in, I have no idea.


Tue, Jul 5, 2011 : 12:45 p.m.

A Bigot......does not make a Racist...... A Racist believes their race is superior to others.... We should recognize behaviors and attitudes as they are - nice to see see that the AAPS is so "tolerant"


Tue, Jul 5, 2011 : 11:22 p.m.

You make no sense

Rod Johnson

Tue, Jul 5, 2011 : 6:06 p.m.

Do you believe your race is superior to others? [sic]


Tue, Jul 5, 2011 : 12:25 p.m.

I didn't see the whole episode, but I did see the clips here and I was expecting to be offended. Unless there was a lot more to it, I don't see what all the fuss is about.

Wolf's Bane

Tue, Jul 5, 2011 : 12:18 p.m.

Academics and Mtv have nothing in common; they are polar opposites. One "hopefully" prepares our future generations for a successful life, while the other fixates on the 'sensationalized' failures of others.

5c0++ H4d13y

Tue, Jul 5, 2011 : 11:39 a.m.

I'll withhold my judgment until The Situation and Snookie weigh in.


Tue, Jul 5, 2011 : 11:28 a.m.

MTV is a failing endeavor known for creating controversy to achieve ratings in a narrow demographic. Does anyone believe that MTV provides balance, thoughtfulness, or care? From an MTV point of view, the more casualties, the better. The more outrage, the better. Ratings, ratings, ratings, yawn. MTV aspires to be the National Enquirer of cable TV. . . or the Jack*ss-Movie-style purveyor of journalism. MTV = Empty TV. Thanks to MTV for its lesson on distorted, self-serving commercial media. Best to Ms Shields, her class, Ms Hamstra, and a2 PiHi . . .

Max Peters

Tue, Jul 5, 2011 : 11:26 a.m.

Wait, A2 schools are in the red and there's an African American Humanities class?!? Uh... I didn't have an American Humanities class in high school 20 years ago much less an African American one.


Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 2:47 p.m.

@Say it Plain (and Halima): Thanks for your comments, I understand what you are saying. I think, unfortunately, that after all the steps back with race relations that happened last year with AAPS, these kinds of things have become extremely sensitive subjects. I think with the Board looking the other way about the state law violations amongst other things will always make people think they have an agenda/favoritism. For the record, I think an African American humanities class is highly beneficial, it is just a shame that once again, AAPS is in the national press in an unfavorable light.

say it plain

Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 2:48 a.m.

Thank you @Halima, that really becomes the ultimate reply to this assertion lol!


Wed, Jul 6, 2011 : 2:30 a.m.

It doesn't cost school districts more to have a course in African American Humanities, Middle Eastern History, or any other non-lab course. Students have to take a certain number of courses to graduate, and teachers have to teach a certain number of courses per term. Some students elect for World Religions, let's say, and some elect for AP Micro-Economics. And some elect African American Humanities. The only courses that cost more to offer than others are science, shop, or art courses where products get used up or specialized equipment is needed.

say it plain

Tue, Jul 5, 2011 : 11:16 p.m.

@thecompound, I guess my comment came off too much as 'poo-pooing' and not enough in the way I'd meant it to be understood. I meant to say that African American Humanities classes are not some specialized niche-y idea and that they have been a part of good humanities programs for a long time. There is a very well-developed curriculum of important american literature (heard of the harlem renaissance and the continuation of that stream of writing?), and to pretend like this is equivalent to presenting a course focused on the work of say, temple grandin, is, I'm arguing, a demonstration of some of the tensions in discussions that touch on race. There probably aren't (or maybe there are?! I can only hope so!) women's studies courses being offered at the high schools in town, but once again, these are well-developed curricula that can offer a great way to analyse literature, experience, social context, etc. Gay studies too will become more accepted as time goes on, making inroads in college departments of course but probably not ready for highschool primetime just yet ;-) I can think of a whole list of writers and books that would more than fill a great syllabus for an African American humanities course, its a little harder for me but I can also come up with a list right off the bat of work to read for a women's studies oriented class, and I would be hard pressed right now to come up with one for gay studies, or autistic studies (though I could get a good psych course developed on that one). I guess what I am sort of shocked by is the idea that this is a new idea to people, that african american humanities counts as a 'oh my! really?' reaction for anyone. It's not just for black students, just to say, and there's an amazing body of work to consider! And your implication that true 'equity' would mean a course oriented to the struggles of autistics too makes me see why people would still want 'equity consultants'.


Tue, Jul 5, 2011 : 6:24 p.m.

Say it plain, i completely agree than anyone who may have thought something good would come out of MTV filming at one's high school should get their head examined. I do not agree with your poo-pooing of Max P questioning a class like this when the school is in the red. Don't gay writers feel oppressed also? What about special needs---where's the class to discuss Temple Grandin and others like her?

Rod Johnson

Tue, Jul 5, 2011 : 6:05 p.m.

Oh, well your experience should definitely determine educational policy for everyone else. I'll alert the school board right away.

say it plain

Tue, Jul 5, 2011 : 4:09 p.m.

Actually, imho, it is non-stories like this, that prompt comments about how silly it is to have an "african american humanities class", that in turn prompts the alleged need for 'equity consultants' in the first place. Because all an "african american humanities class" is is a literature class that covers the important and interesting genre of black american writers. It is an interesting genre for all sorts of reasons, not least of which being that it represents the voice of an oppressed group in our country. This is nothing new in education, yawn, and to see a comment so highly 'rated' complaining about it makes us look sorta like troglodytes really lol. That we see ourselves commenting about how 'silly' or superfluous a course like that is as an idea leads people to feel the need to hire some self-promoting academic analyst of 'race' conversations lol, who saw the business opportunity niche in playing on fears misunderstandings and emotional difficulties surrounding the idea of 'race'. He capitalizes on exactly the pretend controversies engendered by this situation. Controversies exacerbated by media outlets like this one, I'm afraid. I'm not saying I agree with anything expressed by this teacher in terms of 'who can rap' lol. Just that all this silliness surrounding the issue doesn't serve us well as a community *at all*, and I wish that the parties involved had heeded the warnings about allowing the pretend-controversy-machine of reality TV into their lives. Conversations about race and about art are difficult enough, truly. We don't need to trump up the 'charges' one side against the other with all this silliness.


Tue, Jul 5, 2011 : 3:38 p.m.

You probably also didn't have "equity consultants", especially if you are in the red.


Tue, Jul 5, 2011 : 10:23 a.m.

Why another article on this? Slow summer news cycle?