Shelby Jean Michel

Shelby Jean Michel is a Science Department Chair and Physics teacher at KIPP Academy Lynn Collegiate High School in Massachusetts.

What inspired you to get into teaching?
Originally, I actually wanted to be a doctor! I love biology, but before I applied to medical school, I thought I would try something else for a little while, so I got a job teaching science. And… I fell in love with it. What started as a two-year detour has turned into a lifelong profession. There’s nothing quite like seeing the faces of students when they understand something that they didn’t before. It’s addictive! I see myself as an educator for life.

There’s an unbelievable spirit of affirmation at KIPP. We’ve been doing a lot of professional development around critical consciousness. It’s about helping us see the talents our students bring into the classroom. Our students are geniuses! It’s not our job to be gatekeepers – it’s to point a mirror back at them so they can see the greatness within themselves. Our school does a lot of work to affirm our students, and you can see it everywhere.

What has kept you in education?
There are a few things. One, I have learned how to create some strategic boundaries around work. As teachers, we all need to learn how to turn off our minds, stop thinking about work, and focus on family. KIPP enables me to do this. KIPP gives teachers access to some amazing counselors; one of them said to me, “Give all you can, but you can’t give what you don’t have. It’s important to recharge.” We all need to hear that.

The other thing that keeps me in education is my students. They don’t get to quit, so I’m not going to either. It’s as simple as that for me.

Who have you learned from?
Teaching at KIPP is different than teaching anywhere else. The rigor is real, for both students and teachers, but leadership knows that – so they provide mentors and train you. They see you as a human first. They see your failures for what they are – just a foundation to build upon. No one leaves you where you are, everyone is trying to help you grow. At KIPP, people are on your side. They want to see you win.

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