My name is Mallory Skilling and I am an elementary teacher at Michigan International Prep School, a tuition-free online charter school which has an on-site learning lab in Howell. I am in my second year teaching virtually and I absolutely love it. When I think about my role as a teacher, it is simple: put students first. I know this phrase is common in education, so let me clarify what it means to teachers at MIPS.
Firstly, it means we want to understand our students. We take the time to get to know their interest, hobbies, families, strengths, struggles, etc. All of this information is critical in shaping a positive relationship. We care about knowing the student as a whole so that we can pull from their funds of knowledge in the virtual classroom. We believe that a positive teacher-student relationship is essential for academic success and we are committed to building those genuine connections.
Secondly, it means we want to differentiate between our students. MIPS exists in part because of the conviction that no two students are the same and shouldn’t be treated as such. As teachers, we pride ourselves in creating a flexible and customizable experience that fits our student’s needs. Our virtual platform allows us to shape the curriculum to meet students where they are, without the comparison of the classroom setting.
An example of this approach is illustrated in a recent exchange I had with a parent of a 4th-grade student. The student was struggling to select a novel in his English class from the required reading list. He had mentioned that reading is not something he particularly enjoys. After helping the student select a different book that fell within his interests, his mom sent me this message:
“He is so excited! You just made his day! He is reading his book right now and I said, ‘Okay, read for about 45 minutes.’ He said, ‘What if I read longer than that?’ I said, ‘That would be amazing!”
This is a simple example, but as a teacher, it’s exchanges like this that are deeply inspiring! It helps solidify the belief that all students are capable of enjoying their education if someone is willing to take the time to adapt it to their needs and interests.
Thirdly, we seek to inspire our students. We feel a particular responsibility to inspire students who have felt neglected, discouraged, or insecure in a classroom setting. We believe that confidence is tied to academic success. A student needs to feel that they can be successful in order to be successful. Oftentimes, our students are coming from places where they were left feeling incapable of academic success. We strive to recognize and call out their strengths, helping them cast vision for a bright future. It’s not enough to merely make students disciplined in their studies.
Discipline without vision is drudgery. We seek to fill students with a sense of purpose so that they take ownership of their education.
Lastly, we seek to show genuine care for our students. This is the personal element of MIPS that we pride ourselves in. Sometimes this means talking on the phone for an hour about things that are not school related, because the student needs someone to listen and care. Sometimes it looks like answering a text at two o’clock in the morning because a student needs help with a test. Sometimes this means mailing letters of encouragement or supplies that will help the student in their studies. We are constantly looking for new ways to show our students that we care for them.
As a teacher at MIPS, I’m personally grateful for our work culture and for fellow staff members who share in this vision of what it means to prepare students for success. It’s exciting to be a part of a team that’s unified in this effort. I could speak to the credentials, pedagogy, subject expertise, and the high standards to which MIPS teachers are called (all of which are important), but I am most grateful to be working on a team that truly puts relationships and students first.
Michigan International Prep School has a drop-in location in Howell at 114 W. Highland Road. For information on the school, click here.