Michelle H.

Meet Michelle, the STEM Educator

Michelle’s passion for math and science was inspired by her father, an environmental engineering professor. As a child, Michelle often flipped through his textbooks, reading aloud and parroting his lessons to imaginary students. In high school, she embraced every opportunity she could to teach others, serving as a math tutor at her local community center and hosting science competitions for elementary students. Today, Michelle is entering her freshman year at Emory University with a strong foundation in the sciences and an even stronger desire to share her passion for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) with others.
Scroll to read how Michelle’s experiences as a researcher and tutor have fueled her dream to become a STEM educator for underprivileged communities.

Exploring her Passion for Science

Michelle’s lifelong passion for the sciences was strengthened by years of hands-on learning. During high school, she joined various clubs and programs that challenged her to use her knowledge of chemistry and biology to make practical improvements in the real-world. One of these programs, Science Olympiad, quickly became a highlight of her high school career. In this group tournament, participants competed in team events, each tackling a different subject or issue in modern science. Whether Michelle was researching the positive effects of invasive species on the environment or creating a wind turbine to generate renewable energy, Science Olympiad provided Michelle the opportunity to apply all that she had learned in her physics and chemistry classes. “I was able to actively forge my own learning, rather than learning entirely through another person or a textbook.”

Understanding the Education Gap

Michelle pursued her passion for the sciences as a research intern for the city of Knoxville, Tennessee. In conjunction with her research, Michelle attended leadership seminars with community leaders advocating for local issues. One issue in particular was rather foreign to Michelle, but was a topic of conversation in several seminars: the education gap for underprivileged communities. Inspired to help solve this issue, she began a partnership between her high school’s service learning club and a local charter school. Every day, Michelle led a group of her peers to the Wesley House Community Center to tutor students from Kindergarten to 8th grade. “In high school, it’s very easy to get lost in a box. You’re so busy focusing on yourself—how you’re going to get into college, how your resume looks—you don’t see what is happening around you. Talking to these students and learning more about the challenges they face brought the issue of the education gap to life.”

Reimagining Math Education

In addition to after-school tutoring at her community center, Michelle served as an officer for the National Math Honors Society, working alongside her team to host annual math competitions for local elementary students. Each competition was designed with an interactive theme, challenging traditional methods that present math education as passive and fragmented from other subjects. Instead of viewing math merely as formulas confined to paper and pencil, students learn new concepts through multi-sensory and collaborative activities with their peers. Combined with her own experience in Science Olympiad, these math competitions helped Michelle envision what she wants to accomplish in her own classroom in the future: “I want to cultivate a newfound love for math through non-traditional interpretation of the subject.”

Where Math and Science Connect: Designing Interdisciplinary Curriculum

Michelle has experienced firsthand the disintegrative nature of STEM education in which math and science are traditionally taught as two separate, mutually exclusive subjects. However, she believes that teaching the courses concurrently and forging connections between the subjects fosters the most impactful learning—and an authentic appreciation for STEM. “Truly seeing this interdisciplinary learning at work in my own life cemented my passion for the subject. I want to afford this same opportunity for others.”
Michelle will continue to develop her passion for STEM at Emory University, conducting research with the biochemistry graduate division. Her ultimate goal is to create a place where every child has an equal chance to succeed—both within her classroom as an educator and within the entire educational system as an advocate for equal opportunity. As a highly accomplished researcher, tutor, and leader, Michelle is already living her dream to become a STEM educator.