Math can be a tough subject, and teenage years can be a tough time. Michele Elliott’s mission while teaching Algebra I is to build students’ confidence to push forward: “Although things are getting harder, all of this will be worth it,” she said.
Elliott is the outgoing 2020-2021 Teacher of the Year for Indian River High School.
“She believes in all her students more than we believe in ourselves at times,” according to a former student. “She even shared with us her struggles growing up … and explained to us that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.”
“I want them to know that you have a chance. … Just, don’t stop now, because you’ll regret it,” Elliott said.
She was among the school district’s 15 Teachers of the Year, one per building, but the announcement of the 2020 Teachers of the Year came shortly before buildings were closed for the pandemic last spring. Virtual work has been a challenge, with many educators facing a live classroom and Zoom teleconference simultaneously. But Elliott and the others have worked to keep going and help students get to the end of the year.
“I feel that this district — even though it’s so big, you still feel a sense of community,” said Elliott, who wants students to know: “You might not see it right now, [but someday] you’ll know that you had supportive staff and resources that maybe not everyone has when they start their educational career.”
She said she’s impressed by the services available to kids. “There’s a lot that happens in a day for a student to get as much care and support beyond just their academic education.”
Elliott serves as a coach, mentor and leader in the school. She said she enjoys watching IR athletics and spending time with her own family. Before graduating from Sussex Technical High School, she also attended school in the IR School District.
She was excited to become a teacher, and her 13-year career has been half in middle school and half at Indian River High School. She said the IRHS Math Department works closely as a team, so having back-to-back winners for this annual award was exciting. In turn, her colleagues praised her leadership, integrity and excellence as an educator, while pointing out her respect and professionalism among students.
“It’s definitely the job I was meant to have,” Elliott said. “I just always try to know every student. … I’m going to do my very best to make a connection on something.” With 80-minute classes this semester, “you really do get to build a good relationship with everyone. And I think that relationship helps when things get tough or there is a challenge, because even if we’re not having an agreeable day, they are going to come back, and tomorrow’s a fresh start.”