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Middle Grades STEM & Living Environments Brooklyn Science & Engineering Academy

Michelle began her career as a hospital translator, before becoming Emergency Room Administrator at King’s County Hospital in Brooklyn. On the train one day, she saw an ad for the NYC Teaching Fellows program and realized that she was ready to make a career change. Today, Michelle teaches Grade 6 & 7 STEM and Grade 8 Living Environments. She’s a Big Apple Award recipient, a Showcase Fellow, an Urban Advantage Science Initiative Teacher, and a Model Teacher at the Brooklyn Science & Engineering Academy. 

My Pathway into the Classroom

One day I took the train from East Flatbush all the way to Columbia University. And there was an ad about the Teaching Fellows program. I saw that, and I was like, “Gee, there’s a program that allows you to become a teacher without having to go back and do another bachelor’s degree.” And I thought about it for a good four or five years, and then, finally, I told my husband, “I think I want to change careers.” The Teaching Fellows program at Long Island University was so wonderful. The professors were so beautiful. While we were in the program, they worked with us. They came to our school. They addressed issues we faced. They taught us to advocate for ourselves and how to advocate for our students.

As a Middle School Teacher, I Help Create Problem-Solvers

We wanted to create this really amazing environment where kids in our community can see themselves in any kind of career. This year, we went to the Climate Change Summit, where they announced the changes that we need to make. Our kids started asking about climate change and representing our communities—on their day off. It’s amazing to see them there, on that platform, and realizing they have a voice. You don’t have to accept if somebody calls your country of birth a particular thing. We’re really into recognizing that the world will change when you have problem solvers. This is their lives. This is their future. This is our future. If you want a community of individuals who are intelligent, a community of people who will vote, who understand the issues, who can read and discern and solve problems, then you have to do it in our schools. Being a teacher, you’re not just a teacher. You’re that student’s mentor and it’s a huge responsibility. What we say can build them or break them down. As a middle school teacher, I help create problem-solvers

What Should Career Changers Know About Teaching?

Advice to future teachers is to be forgiving of themselves. There is no perfect lesson. I have spent hours prodding over the differentiation – I mean do it, it’s important – and I thought, ‘this lesson is really fun’ and then the kids look at me like, ‘really? OK.’ My enthusiasm about it sells it to them but it wasn’t what I thought. I’ve done a very simple lesson. I’ve walked in and said, we’re going to do physical change and chemical change and we are going to cook something. And that turned out to be the most interactive, question-asking, lesson! So forgive yourself if a lesson doesn’t work.

I’m helping the next generation of people. I’m helping my community. I’m helping kids to understand voting, I’m helping kids to understand empathy and sympathy and inclusion and equity.