Michale Ward is her students’ biggest cheerleader

At the beginning of the school year, fifth-grade teacher Michale Ward posts a sign in her Glasgow Elementary room with the heading: “My Activities.” This piece of paper doesn’t track upcoming lesson plans or classroom tasks; rather, it refers to her students’ extracurricular activities. Here, they can fill in the days and times of their upcoming events, such as football or basketball games or dance recitals.

“On the weekend, if you have a game, tell me,” Ms. Ward instructs her students. “I’ll show up. I’ll bring a water or a Gatorade. I can see my students outside of school and watch them shine. They introduce me to everyone as their teacher, and the parents also love it that I take time over the weekend to see their kids’ events.” Ms. Ward does not view the drive from her Illinois home as a hassle, and says she loves being a part of their lives, both in school and out of it.

She credits her own learning experience at Centreville Elementary School with inspiring her passion for teaching. “Growing up I had really good, strong, influential African American teachers, and I’ve seen how they build relationships with their kids. I wanted to be just like my old elementary school teachers,” she says.

So she reached out over Facebook to four of them for support and advice — particularly since she is a second-year teacher with a class of 30 students. Her former teachers assured her that she could handle it. “They told me, ‘That’s just like what we went through back in the day!’”

Fifth grade brings with it more difficult coursework. Ms. Ward teaches two math classes, where they’ve just finished long division and are moving into fractions; and she teaches reading and writing classes which include research and writing five-paragraph essays as requirements.

She is cognizant when her kids are struggling, and she makes herself available just about every minute of every day. “With the new math, I text all of my parents and send them the link of the answer key to the homework so they can help at home. Some kids use their phones or tablets to text me. I make sure the parents are involved,” she says.

Ms. Ward was shocked to find out that she had been awarded the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Teacher of the Month. Her principal, LaKena Curtis, says that Ms. Ward is exceptionally good at forging relationships with her students, parents and colleagues. “Ms. Ward plans for her students to be successful and encourages them to grow in everything they do,” Ms. Curtis says. “She is a leader and most recently received her master’s degree in educational leadership. As a new teacher, she goes beyond to analyze student data to be sure she provides them with high-level instruction.”

In recognition of Ms. Ward’s achievement, Elco Chevrolet has awarded her $250.

Whether she’s on the sidelines at her students’ games or front and center in the classroom, Ms. Ward anticipates being a teacher for many years to come. “This is my passion,” she says. “I don’t see myself in any other career. To wake up and love what you do is the best feeling in the world.”

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