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Youngest teacher in America discusses how she began her career at 16

Shania Muhammad graduated college when she was 15.

February 22, 2024, 9:15 PM

Growing up, Shania Muhammad said her "home was always built on the foundation of education."

By the age of 15, she graduated from the University of Oklahoma, and by 16, she became the youngest teacher in the United States.

Speaking to "Good Morning America," Muhammad reflected on her childhood at home, crediting part of her success to her older siblings.

"I remember seeing my older siblings study for the ACT in 8th grade," she shared. "My sister, she really started it all. She was 16 when she graduated high school with a 4.0 GPA."

"My brother graduated from the number one private school in Oklahoma. They really set the example," she continued.

PHOTO: Shania Muhammad graduated college when she was 15 years old and became a teacher at 16.
Shania Muhammad graduated college when she was 15 years old and became a teacher at 16.
Courtesy Shania Muhammad

For Muhammad, her own education journey shifted during seventh grade.

"My dad knew that I was really, really advanced," she recalled. "We just started with ACT prep that summer."

She continued: "Realizing I could actually ... write college-level essays, he said, 'Oh yeah, let's go ahead and throw you into enrollment.'"

Muhammad later became the youngest student at the University of Oklahoma, an achievement she said made her feel "like I was like an undercover superhero."

"I'm going in here, people don't know me," she said. "That's when I go out into my regular personal life. And everyone knows I'm 13."

After graduating college at 15, Muhammad said she was offered a teaching job when "the school owner reached out to me."

"At the time, I was 15 years old," Muhammad said. "And I was like, 'They want me to actually like. teach teach, like an actual lead position?'"

PHOTO: Shania Muhammad graduated college when she was 15 years old and became a teacher at 16.
Shania Muhammad graduated college when she was 15 years old and became a teacher at 16.
Courtesy Shania Muhammad

For practical reasons, however, Muhammad shared she decided to wait until she reached 16, when she was able to obtain a driver's license, to drive herself to work before taking on the job offer.

"And so that August, that's when I started teaching," she said.

Muhammad told "GMA" that she currently teaches 8-year-old students whom she said have no issues with "taking me seriously or respect for authority."

"To them, I'm still looked at as an adult," she explained. "Because they see me driving, they see me going to get stuff, they see me talking to the staff."

Discussing her curriculum, she shared, "I love to keep my class out of their seats."

"All of our activities really include getting up out of your seat, working in partners, going into a group, presenting, debating," she said, adding that "Being in class, the energy is real nice."

Encouraging her students to speak up, she said, "I love that they're able to communicate. And I always tell them this is a safe space. You can tell me anything."

"There probably ain't nothing I haven't heard in my 16 years of life just yet," Muhammad said, adding that she also reminds them to "have more faith in your success than you do in your failures."

During the interview with "GMA," Muhammad also shared some wisdom that she learned along the way.

"A lot of people go out into the world where they are uncomfortable, where they are unknown, where they are unfamiliar, and they think, 'What if something [goes] wrong? What if I don't get the job because the interview went bad? What if I fail in this or fail in that?" she explained.

"And I'm just like, 'We always step out with failure,' And that's the first thing you think about. I want to show people that you don't have to wait on nothing," she said.

"Whatever you don't have, create it," she added.

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