Student Spotlight: Michelle Foster Everly

Student Spotlight: Michelle Foster Everly

By Michelle Foster Everly
  1. What makes you want to be a teacher?

Growing up, I LOVED school. I loved learning new things in class, doing homework, hanging out with my friends, reading, anything that was school-related! I was the girl who was sad when she had to stay home for a sick day. In 5th grade, I realized that I could very easily get through art class by doing the minimal amount of work. I distinctly remember bringing up a project to my teacher and saying: “I’m finished.” She looked down at the project, handed it back to me and looked me in the eye, “I don’t want you to ever bring me anything that’s not your best work. Please keep working on this.” In the moment, I could feel my cheeks burning and the frustration boiling in my heart. But, I kept her words with me. For the rest of my years in school, I only brought my best work forward and I had so many teachers who believed in me, invested in me and did not let me just slide by. In high school I realized that my experience was not universal. I had friends who had never felt seen, known, or stretched by teachers. Family members close to me had struggled with math and did not find someone to walk through it with them. This broke my heart. I was (and still am) a huge people person and I knew that I needed to be a teacher. I want to be the teacher who gets to know her students and their interests. While not everyone loves math the way I do, I hope that I ooze such passion for math and my students that they can’t help but get just a little bit excited. I desire to push my students to be proud of their work and what they bring to the classroom. In a sea of academic, relational, and world struggles, I want to be a voice that is constant, steady and always saying “you can do it.” Even more, I want to use my identity as a black, kind woman who studied STEM to show my students that “Yes, you can even do that, too.”

  1. Why did you choose Northwestern University’s MSEd Program?

I attended Northwestern for my undergraduate degree. I spent all 4 of my years in the McCormick School of Engineering, but made sure to find ways to explore the other areas of the University (including the wonderful English and Learning Sciences departments). When I decided to apply for graduate school programs for teaching, I knew that I had to apply to the MSEd Program. The professors I encountered in SESP were some of the most engaging, enthusiastic and formative professors I had ever had. I also had many friends who completed their teaching degrees in SESP and I only ever heard rants about how much they felt the #SESPLove. The more I learned about the program and interacted with the staff and faculty, the more I felt like I was at home. I knew that the MSEd program’s focus on equity aligned with my personal values as a teacher and I felt cared for as a student from the first minute I spent in the information session. There are no perfect programs, but I felt the support of the community from day one and knew that’s where I wanted to grow and learn.

  1. What were you doing prior to starting at Northwestern?

Before starting graduate school this fall, I was an AmeriCorps member for Books & Breakfast! Books & Breakfast is an Evanston before school program that focuses on making sure each student is academically, physically, and emotionally prepared for their most critical 7 hours of the day. I got to spend every morning working with students from kindergarten to 8th grade on homework, executive functioning skills, and fun enrichment activities. I also had the privilege to work through friend drama with them, sit with them when family moments were hard, and share in the joy of trying new things! My position with AmeriCorps also gave me valuable experience in what it means to serve your community, live out true equity, work with students, parents, teachers, and coworkers from all walks of life, and what my core values are as an individual. So much of what I bring to the table today comes from the very non-glamorous moments of serving and getting to know the people around me.

  1. What is the sense of community like in the MSEd program at Northwestern?

I mentioned the community as part of the reason I chose Northwestern and I have only been more sure of my choice since starting this fall! I’d never had any online classes until this year. I was a bit nervous before starting because I did not know how I would make friends or even get to know the people I was in class with (which is very important to me). Yet, the wonderful MSEd team has done all they can to give us chances to experience the community. We had an orientation on Zoom that allowed us to get to know each other and the faculty and staff. There have been events planned so students can come together, share knowledge, and get to know each other. And, professors have given us countless opportunities to speak about who we are. Even though I have never physically met any of my classmates, I absolutely adore them. I look forward to breakout rooms for group project sessions and catching up with classmates. I love how we’re learning to overcome the challenge of virtual interactions and to really encourage and listen to one another. The community may look a bit different than it did even half a year ago, but I really feel like I know others and they know me.

  1. What advice or insight would you give to an incoming first year in the Northwestern MSEd Program? 

Get excited and bring your whole self to this program! Even if you have never had any experience teaching before, you have a valuable perspective and you have a right to be here. The beauty of learning is that we can humbly admit that we do not know everything and then we can come alongside peers and professors to grow and expand and become even more of who we want to be! You’re going to do great. :)

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