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DeNight in Shining Armour

Dr. DeNight is always willing to assist his students whenever they find themselves in doubt.

Dr. DeNight is always willing to assist his students whenever they find themselves in doubt.

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“Oh you’re hot stuff!”

“Don’t be a slacker.”

“Get to hustling!”

   These are just a few of Dr. DeNight’s motivational phrases, but if you’ve ever had him as a teacher, you can think of a lot more.

Sponsor of our very own Miami High Times, Dr. DeNight doesn’t plan on retiring anytime soon and enjoys his time here at Stingtown.

Teaching at MHS

  Dr. DeNight started teaching at Miami High in 2003 and has been teaching here for the past 14 years. He’s taught freshmen English classes and intensive reading classes, but currently teaches AP Capstone Seminar, AP Research, Journalism, and Dual Enrollment English.

One of his favorite memories as a MHS teacher would be arriving to work the first day and the principal’s secretary kissing him and bringing him “cafecito”. “It was just so warm and welcoming,” he said.

What he loves most about teaching is working with young kids and feeling their great energy. “Kids are great,” he said. “I feel encouraged and hopeful when I’m around them.” He also enjoys the schedule of being a teacher because it allows him to spend more time with his family.

Family Life and Early Years

Dr. DeNight has been married to his wife Jane for 22 years and they have 2 kids: William, 15, and Julia, 11. His hobbies includes riding his bike out to Key Biscayne, reading, traveling, and learning new languages. Dr. DeNight is fluent in sign language, Spanish, Portuguese, and can read and speak a bit of French, Italian, and German.

Born September 18, 1963, in Riverside, New Jersey, a small town outside of Philadelphia, Dr. Shawn DeNight was moved a lot as a child, but settled in Miami where he attended Epiphany Catholic School for elementary and middle, and then went to Columbus High school.

He describes his childhood as a great one. “I have four brothers, and we were always doing things,” he said, “such as building tree forts, riding mini bikes, and swimming in the canals. We had a lot of freedom.”

To get some peace and quiet in the house, every summer his mom dropped him and his four brothers off at the county’s recreation program at Sunniland Park. During the school year, he and his brothers played little league football and baseball. He said, “We made a lot of friends that way too.”

As a high school student, he had many jobs. In his freshmen year, he was a busboy at an Italian restaurant, then his sophomore year a bag boy in a supermarket. Junior year he worked as an usher in a movie theatre, and his last year of high school he started working in the county park department as a recreation leader.


College Life
Dr. DeNight finished his fourth year of college at FIU. In college, he also worked in restaurants, but in his last year at FIU, he became a journalist for a local community newspaper.
After finishing high school, Dr. DeNight attended University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, then transferred to the University of Florida for his second year of college, and then went to Spain. “That was my best year of college because I learned more about the Spanish culture and I became bilingual,” he said.

After graduating from FIU with a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies, he taught at Columbus High School for one year and was surprised to learn how much he liked teaching, and considered making it his career. “Journalists work long hours and get paid very little for their efforts,” he said. “However, teachers have a more predictable schedule, with a lot of time off, and a better salary than most journalists.”
Teaching at Edison High

Before becoming a teacher at Miami High, Dr. DeNight taught at Edison High for 16 years, where he taught English, journalism, and reading classes. While working at Edison, he went to night school at UM to receive his Masters and Ph.D. in English education.

Although Dr. DeNight didn’t want to leave Edison High, he had no other choice. “I left in a scandal,” he said, “not anything I did, but a result of Edison having a hard time raising its test scores.” Since Edison High kept being an F school, the state decided the school had to change its faculty, and that’s how Dr. DeNight came to Miami High. “In the end, it was a really good move for me because I love working here,” he said.

His favorite memory as a teacher from Edison High was when he won the Florida Teacher of the Year award in 1994. “When I won, I was able to travel around the state and bring a lot of positive attention to the school and to the teaching profession,” he said.


After teaching for 1 year at Columbus High School, Dr. DeNight received a Rotary Foundation Scholarship to study in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

He learned about the Rotary Scholarship because of his mom. “Like a lot of mothers, my mom always thought I was great,” he said, “and she pushed me to apply for the Rotary Scholarship.” He applied through the Coral Gables Rotary Club, went through a tough interview process, and finally was chosen to study in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“It was such a great opportunity because I got to learn what a great country Brazil was, I learned to speak Portuguese, and made many friends too,” he said. “The Rotarians were so good to me.”

In 2012 he was awarded with the College Board’s Bob Costas Grant for the Teaching of Writing. “I’ve been lucky that I’ve been recognized for my achievements, but I’ve also worked hard,” he says.

For the future, Dr. DeNight wants to keep learning from his job. “There’s still so much we don’t know about teaching and a lot of unanswered questions about how different students learn,” he said. “And who knows? Maybe I’ll be the one to answer them.”

Free time

When he’s not at work, Dr. DeNight loves to run and walk. “I make my kids walk too, and they hate it,” he said.

He took a night school class in wood working where he learned to make furniture such as chairs, book shelves, and dressers.

His favorite foods are Italian, Cuban, and Nicaraguan food. “I know all the good fritangas,” he says, “like the Yambo is good, but Pinolandia has the best meat.”

He doesn’t have a favorite music preference because he likes to listen to everything. “I have young kids who are always showing me new music on the radio,” he said.


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About the Writer
Angie Betancourt, Staff Writer
Senior in Journalism 1
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