For Shane Robinson, the realization came deep in the woods. There, for the first time, he experienced the joys of teaching.

“When I was firefighting, I found that I really enjoyed mentoring the young firefighters,” says Robinson, now midway through his first year teaching at Astoria High School. “As much as I had learned, I wanted to share.”

The lessons began with safety. “I was a sawyer so I could teach them how to cut and how to be safe,” Robinson says. But quickly those lessons became something more.

“There were a lot of days where we would be on lookout for, like, 16 hours,” says Robinson. “And I’m sitting next to a 19-year-old who’s just about to earn $30,000 during this fire season and hasn’t heard of how to invest.”

Quickly, Robinson sprung to action. “I would just break it down for them,” he says, “as much as they can handle. I realized that by the end, they got it.” Then came Robinson’s own payoff.

“I found that I was more passionate about mentoring, teaching, instructing young firefighters than I was motivated to go up the chain, or motivated to become a squad boss,” he says.

At the time, Robinson, along with this new wife, Heather, was living in Eugene. Both were studying at the University of Oregon; Robinson in political science, Heather in physical therapy. They hoped to soon find careers, buy a home, and start a family – to put down roots. Robinson decided to take a closer look at teaching.

“I wanted to get my feet wet before I jumped out of a career of firefighting that I really enjoyed,” he remembers.

Robinson found a gig coaching high school freshmen in Hillsboro. The sport was baseball, his youthful passion. And indeed, coaching validated Robinson’s experience on the fire line. Teaching felt good.

“At the awards ceremony after the season, a lot of the kids came up to me and said, ‘I want to thank you; you believed in me,’” Robinson remembers. “I couldn’t believe there was a pattern of kids, that what they got out of the season was that somebody believed in them.

“I took it for granted,” Robinson continues. “Like, ‘Of course I believe in you! How could I not?’ I didn’t realize that I learned that from my father, who was a coach and a teacher for about 30 years.”

The instinct or compunction to teach was rooted deep in Robinson.

“I realized a lot of these teaching skills – and how to believe in people – I received from my best coach: my dad.”

The road to Astoria

Shane Robinson, 36, was born in Phoenix, Ariz., where he spent his first 22 years – most of them playing baseball.

“That was my true ambition,” Robinson says, “to play baseball professionally.”

His position was second base. “I was a real utility guy,” he says, whose job was to “put the bat on the ball and run real fast.” A knee injury, however, stole Robinson’s speed.

With his baseball dreams grounding out, Robinson took to travel. He backpacked around Europe then moved to San Diego where he fell in love with surfing.

“I went out and bought a hundred-dollar board and caught my first wave,” he says. “I’ve been hooked ever since. It was amazing.”

He found work as a sales rep for a tool company in Illinois. They were a big, old-fashioned company with global reach. But Robinson’s lack of a proper diploma imposed a ceiling while the job’s demands prohibited returning to school.

As a hedge, Robinson found work moonlighting as a hotel bouncer. Then he met Heather.

“It was kind of funny,” Robinson remembers.

Heather was a bartender who had tired of life in San Diego. She was more interested in returning to Oregon than starting a relationship. But a friend wanted her to come along on a double-date. Heather obliged, picking Robinson as her counterpart.

“My wife, soon to be, points at me,” Robinson remembers. “She says: ‘How about that guy? I could never see having a relationship with that guy.’” Heather’s proclamation proved premature.

“We started chatting and then went on a date,” Robinson says. “The next thing you know, we fell in love.”

In 2006, the couple moved to Oregon. They married soon after. Two years later they enrolled at the University of Oregon. To help pay his tuition, Robinson fought forest fires, a job that eventually took him around the Western U.S., up to Alaska, and included stints in the U.S. Forest Service and as a member of the Hotshot crew.

Once mentoring young firefighters showed him that he wanted to teach, Robinson began searching for schools to get his master’s degree. Heather, too, was looking to expand her own credentials. In the fall of 2011, both enrolled at Pacific University in Forest Grove. There, Robinson received certification to teach both general education and special education courses.

While at Pacific, Robinson began traveling up and down the North Coast on surf trips. He loved it and was ready to relocate closer to the water. Upon graduation, however, it was important to Heather to find a vibrant community in which they could settle – not any place on the coast would do.

On their first visit to Astoria, the couple were hooked. But there weren’t many jobs. When Robinson heard of the opening for a special education teacher at Astoria High School this summer, he jumped. Heather found work at the hospital. They couldn’t believe their luck.

“We just found home,” Robinson remembers thinking upon his hiring.

The couple moved in last summer, just in time for the fireworks.

A job that hits home

That Shane Robinson found work in special education is no accident.

“I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder,” he says. “School was incredibly challenging for me. I didn’t think I was going to be able to hang. When I got to college, it became really evident.”

Given a book on the subject by his mother, Robinson was enlightened.

“As I was reading,” he remembers, “it I was like, ‘Thank God – this is something – it’s not just that I’m lazy or I’m not trying hard or I’m not smart.’

“So when I realized this door is opening where they need special education teachers, I was like, well maybe this is a better fit for me anyway,” Robinson says. “I would have never made it through if I hadn’t learned all those ways to adapt.”

And just as he did with those young firefighters, Robinson delights in sharing what he’s learned about dealing with his own ADHD.

“If there’s any way I can help other kids in my shoes not have to do that on their own, I’m in,” he says. “I want to do that.”


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