Protecting and serving students as a Spring Branch Independent School District (SBISD) police officer is something that runs in Sergeant Shannon Overton's blood.
"For many years, my aunt served in a similar role in the district," said Shannon. "I have fond memories of going to work with her as a child, but never once did I think I would one day follow in her footsteps."
Taking a 180
Shannon once thought she might be destined to be a baker. When she was 18 years old, she took a job as a cake decorator at a local bakery – a job she thoroughly enjoyed. She decorated cakes until she was 23 and decided to enter the police academy.
"It was quite a career change to go from cake decorator to police officer," said Shannon. "It was definitely a 180."
In 2008, Shannon officially became part of the SBISD family and, since then, has become an integral force in maintaining safety within the district. It was her first and only position she's held in law enforcement.
"I've always enjoyed sports and being around kids, so when the position became available, I jumped at the opportunity," said Shannon. "Also, I knew how much my aunt enjoyed working in the district, so it just made sense."
Shannon likes animals, too, which is why she enjoys the other facet of her job: serving as the official explosive canine handler for the district.
Sniffing out trouble
In her role in the canine division, Shannon takes care of Don, a 5-year-old German Wire-Haired Poynter. With a nose for danger, Don is tasked with sniffing out explosives and is instrumental in keeping SBISD students and staff safe. The duo is called on when there is a suspected bomb threat at any school and conducts preventive searches at large-scale events like graduation and football games.
Shannon takes great pride in her and Don's impact on the SBISD community. Her role goes beyond maintaining order; it involves educating students about safety and the crucial work of the canine division. Frequently requested for classroom presentations, Shannon and Don serve as ambassadors, fostering understanding and appreciation for their role in keeping the school environment free from harm.
As Don's handler, Shannon is responsible for him 24 hours a day/seven days a week. Don goes home with Shannon at the end of each day, where Shannon makes sure he's fed, sees the vet regularly, and goes on walks. She might also occasionally give Don a treat, ensuring he's in tip-top shape to do his job.
"Don is more than just a four-legged companion. I consider him an employee who needs to be ready to spring into action at a moment's notice to protect our most precious assets: our students and staff," said Shannon.
Don is just one of the canines that work for SBISD. Dash, a Labrador retriever, and Jelly, a German Shepard, also patrol the district to help district police sniff out narcotics. There is also Artush, who has since retired.
Before Don, Shannon took care of Aaron, a German Shephard, who was also tasked with identifying explosives in SBISD.
The bond between officer and canine runs deep, so it wasn't easy when she had to put Aaron down, but she is grateful now to have Don as her sidekick.
Growing up around many different animals – dogs, chickens, horses, and cats, to name just a few, Shannon says she's the perfect fit to take care of Don, a part of her job she genuinely enjoys.
Watching kids grow
Another part of her job is that she thoroughly enjoys interacting with the students. It is rewarding for her to watch them transition from wide-eyed elementary schoolers to confident high school students.
"Watching kids grow up over the years makes me feel old," she said with a chuckle. "But it also makes me feel proud, especially when I witness a student on the wrong path make the necessary changes to turn their lives around."
Shannon wants students to understand that she and her colleagues are there to help them and can play a positive role in their lives; their presence doesn't always have to be seen as a negative.
"It takes all of us – parents, teachers, administrative staff, coaches, and even police officers to help students grow into successful, productive adults," said Shannon. "I'm happy to play a small part in that, helping students understand that there are consequences to your actions."
Shannon finds her work rewarding in protecting students, teachers, and staff and because she's had many opportunities to better herself, thanks to the tools SBISD provides.
"The district offers lots of support and ways you can be more effective in your role with additional training," said Shannon. "I'm really grateful for the SBISD network and have gained a lot from being a part of it."
For Shannon, her job at SBISD represents much more than a paycheck. It serves as a connection and the chance to build camaraderie with the other police officers on staff. A proud member of the SBISD family for 15 years, Shannon does not intend to go anywhere else and hopes to remain in the district for at least the next 15 years as she heads toward retirement.
"I really can't see myself any place else," she said.
To learn more about career opportunities in SBISD, click here.