Huron High School business teacher Melissa Gordon was born and raised in the Ann Arbor area. An alumni of King Elementary School, she asks her Huron students at the start of the semester who attended King and loves it when they discover they shared some of the same teachers.
Gordon’s parents were both educators—her dad was a school psychologist in Plymouth-Canton Schools and her mom was a special education teacher. She has a younger sister who chose business as a career.
Gordon attended Eastern Michigan University, majoring in business, management, marketing and technology education, and secondary math. While at EMU, she was able to walk onto the golf team.
Gordon did her business student teaching at Huron High School with Christy Garrett and says Huron immediately felt like home and the place she wanted to work. Unfortunately, there were no job openings at the time, and after a job search of more than two years, she was hired to teach math and business
classes for six years in Whitmore Lake before Christy Garrett reached out to let her know that some business openings were happening at Huron. She recalls Garrett saying: “I can promise you an interview, but I can’t promise you a job.” Gordon often tells her students about that experience when they are discussing the importance of networking. That was seven years ago, and she says it felt great to be a River Rat once again.
When you recall your first year of teaching, what memories stand out?
Laughing, having fun every day, and a never-ending ride of controlled chaos! And always being
exhausted. It was so fun to have my own room with my own kids to teach. Every day was an
adventure. Thirteen years later, it still is!
How did you reach the achievement of NGPF Distinguished Educator of Personal Finance?
In 2019 I found a website that was providing professional development to personal finance teachers.
I was amazed at the free offerings from Next Gen Personal Finance. Most days there were 2-3 PD sessions you could attend on all different kinds of personal finance topics. They also provided free curriculum to use in my classroom and it became a great professional learning network for me to be a part of. During Covid, they started offering certification classes. The classes consist of 10 hours of study and then an exam. I now hold 13 certifications in a variety of personal finance topics. You only need six in order to be considered a “Distinguished Educator.” But the best part of working with NGPF is the way they give back to us as teachers. They sponsored me to attend the Jump$tart National Educator Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. I was able to spend three days networking and learning about personal finance education and bring those lessons back to my classroom, and to my department, and share them with the rest of the district.
What were you like in high school, and do those memories help you relate to your students?
I really enjoyed school for the most part—especially if it was a class I was interested in or if I had a great teacher in a class I didn’t care for. I think that really helps me as a teacher because there are some subjects that do stand out as favorites or there are some classes that you couldn’t wait to get to because the teacher was so fun even if the topic wasn’t something I enjoyed. I do often bring up the struggles I had as a student to be relatable, but also to provide some wisdom.
What advice would you give to a first-year teacher?
There are going to be good days and bad days, but remember to have fun and laugh. Make sure to
plan time for yourself each day or at least each week. You have to take care of yourself in order to
take care of your students. Don’t over-extend yourself because you want to be a part of everything. You’ll wear yourself out!
What do you think of AAPS’ emphasis this year on dignity and belonging?
This is built into International Baccalaureate, so I feel we’ve been doing this for a long time.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about teaching? About learning?
This is my seventh year at Huron, and I am so thankful for my Huron family. The administration, my
coworkers who I see at staff meetings, or the amazing CTE Team I work with daily, we are a family.
We’re constantly checking in on one another. And we share with each other. Some of the best professional developments we have are when we sit around and chat about what we are doing in class or bounce lesson plan ideas off of one another. There’s amazing collaboration always going on. Having that family and collaboration among us really helps our teaching and our students.
What’s your favorite class to teach?
Personal finance—you need it for everything! In Personal Finance 1, our first assignment is called
“Pricing Out Your Future.” Students get to pick their dream house, dream car, and dream job. Their reflections when the realize that their dream career won’t give them the dream house or car are always eye-opening. They really start asking themselves what really matters and what will make them happy. I’m happy they are thinking about that now, instead of years down the road and thousands of dollars of student loan debt. We also complete a budgeting project where students have 3 options to choose from: just graduated with a vocational degree, graduated from college, or graduated with a professional degree. They have to put together a budget ranging from housing and transportation to food, planning a vacation, and student loan repayments. Again, the reflections when we complete this activity and the conversations that are had during the activity are insightful. I still get emails from alumni asking me to share with them our budget spreadsheet because they need it.
What’s the happiest part of your day?
Whenever I can make a positive impact, it’s the happiest part of my day.
What makes teaching at A2 Huron unique?
If you haven’t yet attended the Multi-Culti, I would strongly encourage you to do so! It’s one of the
best days of the year and really shows off who we are as River Rats!
Huron is one of the most incredible places to work. I feel so lucky to be here. We are an International Baccalaureate school and I am part of the Career Programme (the first programme like it in the state). Students are able to focus on career-related studies and go to college or vocational school with experience already in that field. Some students are already being offered jobs because of the work they completed in high school or they are being directly admitted into the School of Business at different colleges and universities instead of having to wait two years to apply. Our programs are setting them up for success and giving them a head start among their peers.