Michelle Landis, Scarlett Middle School math teacher

When asked what makes Michelle Landis an Exceptional Teacher, Scarlett Middle School Assistant Principal Jaye Peterson replied: “Everything!”

Scarlett teacher Evelyn Daugherty agrees, adding: “Michelle goes above and beyond to help each student meet the learning target. Whether it means working together during lunch or after school, Michelle Landis goes above and beyond!”

Michelle Landis grew up in Royal Oak. Her mother is a teacher, while her father was an IT manager (now retired). As a child, Landis had a love of learning, especially reading, writing, and playing piano.

After graduating from the University of Michigan in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree, she taught middle school math and science in Niles for two years. She then relocated to Ann Arbor and spent the next seven years teaching at Slauson Middle School.

Last year, Landis joined the faculty at Scarlett Nation, where she currently teaches 6th and 7th grade math. This September, she will begin pursuing a Master’s degree in Curriculum & Instruction from Western Governors University.

Outside of work, Michelle still enjoys reading and playing piano, though she admits to being a bit rusty. She likes walking at County Farm Park and spending quality time with her family.

Why did you pursue a career in teaching?
My mom is a teacher. As a teenager, I worked with small groups in her classroom. I loved that moment when a new concept “clicked” for a student. Seeing their enthusiasm and pride in themselves is very rewarding. My goal is to help young people build confidence in themselves and their abilities. 

Why math?
Every year, incoming sixth graders tell me “I’m not a math person” or “I’m not good at math.” The truth is that everyone can learn math! I want to help students realize that they can be successful in math if they work hard, learn from their mistakes, and believe in themselves. 

Were you always good at math?
I earned good grades in middle and high school math classes, but I definitely felt like I wasn’t a “math person.” I had to work hard in math class and I didn’t see how math would be useful in my daily life. My appreciation for math developed over time during college. College instructors showed me more real-world math examples and made me explain how to solve math problems in words. Once I understood the why, I began enjoying math a lot more.

Describe an average workday.  
I get to school around 7:30 a.m., drink coffee, and print off materials for that school day. A few times per week at lunch, I work with students to help them get caught up on their math work. After school, I tutor students and finish planning my lessons for the next day. Once I’m done, I usually talk with my family, go on a walk in my neighborhood, or watch a show on Netflix. Right now I’m really into The Great British Baking Show.

What are your best tips for classroom management?
Spend time getting to know students and developing classroom norms together at the start of the year. Model the behaviors that you want to see in your classroom. Listen to students, pay attention to what interests them, and incorporate their interests into your lessons. Redo seating charts when you need a whole-class reset. 

What do you like about working at Scarlett specifically, and AAPS in general?
Scarlett administrators and teachers care deeply about students. We find creative ways to engage students and are all about trying new teaching strategies. We also genuinely enjoy spending time with each other! I’ve never laughed as much at a staff meeting as I have at Scarlett. 

For AAPS in general, I really appreciate the emphasis on joy in the classroom. It’s been a tough couple of years, and we can all use more joy in our lives. Students and teachers who associate their classes with joy will be more likely to attend class, regularly engage in class activities, and enjoy their time in school. 

What’s the happiest part of your day?
I love talking on the phone with my mom and dad after school. We share the best parts of our day, and they catch me up on the latest news from my 84-year-old grandparents. Once a week, I also Zoom with my sister and one-year-old niece, who live in New York. My niece is so cute!

I love the moments when students understand something they didn’t understand before and when they are proud of the work they’ve done. I also love it when students show kindness and empathy to each other. When I was in middle school, I remember kids being mean to each other, so it warms my heart to see students treat each other well.

Michelle Landis

Best advice your mother ever gave you?
When I was little, my mom would say, “Measure seven times and cut once.” It’s important to take your time and think things through before acting. 

Favorite podcasts, websites, apps:
Youtube, Edpuzzle, Desmos, Blooket, Edutopia 

What advice would you give to a first-year teacher?
Students model their behavior after your behavior. Show students empathy and kindness–especially when they make mistakes. Assume that students are doing the best they can. Then ask, “How can I help?”

How do you encourage a student who doesn’t think they’re good in math or doesn’t see the practical point of it?
At the beginning of the year, I ask students to share how they feel about math so that I can reach out to students who need more support. Once I know a student’s “math story,” I can provide what they need to feel more confident in math. This usually means lots of positive reinforcement and being explicit about what students are doing well. When I’m teaching, I point out my own mistakes so that students can begin to see that making mistakes is a necessary part of learning. I also want to broaden students’ definitions of math; we do real-world problems so that students can see how math is useful in their daily lives.

What’s the best compliment anyone could give you?
A student once wrote to me: “You taught me that you need to trust yourself in order to achieve good grades and if you work hard, you can achieve anything you want to.” 

What do you wish everyone realized about the work of a teacher?
Teachers are really hard workers. One planning time during the school day is often not enough time to plan for all of your classes, so teachers do a lot of planning before and/or after school. Many teachers coach sports, sponsor clubs, or participate in school committees in addition to teaching their classes. Many teachers also work over the summer.

What’s most exciting about your professional life right now? Your personal life?
I’m looking forward to my Master’s program in Curriculum and Instruction. I also recently printed off a new boogie woogie piano piece, so I’m excited to start learning to play that song.

How do you spend your summers?
I teach summer school. I have worked with the Summer ESL Academy and the Scarlett Summer Learning Academy. I love getting to know students and working with teaching interns from the University of Michigan. Once summer school ends, I take it easy. I sleep, catch up on TV shows, and read books for fun. I also spend a lot of time with my parents and grandparents. 

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