Michelle Chambers is an instructional coach at John E. Ford PreK-8 Montessori School. This year, she was honored as the Teacher of the Year at her school and recognized for her outstanding achievements as the Axalta All-Pro Teacher at JPEF's EDDY Awards. Thanks to a generous grant from Axalta, Ms. Chambers took her students on an overnight adventure to SeaWorld.
We asked Ms. Chambers a few questions to learn more about her work.
What is a day in your classroom like?
A day in the life of an instructional coach is very different than that of a classroom teacher. I support the needs of the teachers to ensure that students are successful.
Within my classroom, teachers are the learners. When you step foot in my room, you will notice a cozy space filled with a clean fragrance. The lighting is calm with the dim light of a salt lamp and natural light beaming from the windows. A long table with chairs is placed in the center of the room where teachers lesson plan, share ideas, analyze data and solve problems. In the center of the table is a jar filled with jelly beans and other treats. This small gesture lets the teachers know they are loved and valued. Every day, you will find me working alongside teachers, whether it be in my classroom or their classroom. We are always learning, discussing and implementing best practices with the goal of achievement for all students.
Can you share a story of a student who you felt benefited from your class, or who impacted you?
While in the classroom, I taught reading. All of my students were struggling readers.
I always encouraged and pushed my students letting them know that they can read. We worked together to overcome the barriers that struggling readers faced. Many of my students reading skills increased during our time together.
I received a letter in my school mailbox from a student I had in previous years. He thanked me for being his teacher and helping him to learn to read. In his letter, he was specifically thankful that he no longer had to take remedial reading classes because he was reading on grade level.
My heart exploded with joy. I am thankful that he knows his worth and is successful!
What do you love about your school?
I love my school. We work together to ensure all students’ needs are met. Our school community is a family. Students, teachers, administrators and parents trust and support each other. I value and love the relationships I have with the teachers and students as they are so important to developing the whole child.
Do you have a principal or assistant principal who has made a difference in your career? How?
My principal, Ms. Tina Bennett, has made a huge impact in my life and career. She is always pushing me to reach my goals. Without her encouragement and support, I would not be where I am today. I am thankful that she trusts and believes in me. Her leadership, kindness and drive to ensure all students are successful is valuable and what all principals should aspire to be.
How do you plan to spend your award money? Why is this exciting to you?
I am thankful to have been named the Axalta All-Pro Teacher and awarded $5,000.
With this grant, we took our eighth grade students to Sea World for an overnight trip in correspondence with their science curriculum. Our students learned about life sciences and stayed in the shark exhibit. Upon our arrival, students interacted with Sea World tour guides and engaged in an interactive educational experience about the animals Sea World serves. After students were provided a pizza dinner and ice cream social. Students then slept under the sharks and coral reefs in the shark aquarium. The next morning, students were provided a buffet breakfast and then enjoyed the amenities of the park for the day.
Many of our students come from generational poverty and have limited access to experiences like this. Our students do not ever get an opportunity to engage in extra curricular activities or field trips because there are no funds available. With this grant, we were able to provide an opportunity that they would otherwise not have.
The smiles on our students’ faces and the joy they experienced will be something we will never forget.