When Monrovia teacher Michele Hendrickson was growing up, she said she was not the kind of student you would pick for your classroom.
“I did have a strong passion against school,” she said. “I was probably not the student you wanted to have in class. I was in trouble a lot.”
In response to a writing assignment in fifth grade about what students wanted to be when they grew up, Hendrickson instead wrote about what she did not want to be — a teacher.
“I was dead set on it not being my career as a child. I was thinking, ‘This is the most boring job anyone would want to have,’” she said. “School was not that exciting for me.”
In spite of her elementary-school opinions, Hendrickson excels at Green Valley Elementary School, according to Principal Leigh Warren.
“Her greatest strength is perseverance and her willingness to just be as flexible as possible in order to best meet the needs in all kids,” Warren said. “She just doesn’t give up. If one thing doesn’t work she tries something else. … This is the best way you can teach.”
Hendrickson, 27, said she views the fact that she was so against being a teacher as a child a unique part of her story. Several things drew her to change her mind, including a 12th grade history teacher who expected more from her.
“He loved history and showed me that learning could be fun and … useful and brought the nerd out in me,” she said. It was then, she said, that she began to enjoy school.
In addition, she wanted to change the parts of her learning experience that she didn’t like for other students. “I come from the school of thought [that] if you don’t like the way something is done, go and do it yourself,” she said.
Hendrickson studied teaching at Hood College in downtown Frederick and is currently studying in Hood’s Master’s in Science in Curriculum and Instruction program. She received her undergraduate degree from Hood College as well, a dual degree studies in elementary education and special education. Hendrickson grew up in Anne Arundel County.
Now in her fourth year at Green Valley Elementary School, Hendrickson’s classroom of 25 students is defined by “organized chaos,” she said, comparing it to the classroom in the popular book series, “The Magic School Bus.”
“You would see fun, you would see interactive activities, you would see technology — kids doing a lot of the working and sharing and less of me talking,” she said.
Rather than just tell the students information all day, Hendrickson is very passionate about using different teaching methods to instruct them. For example, this year she taught students to round up numbers with an outdoor activity.
“Instead of passing out worksheets, we went outside and took sidewalk chalk and drew number lines and hopped one way or another to decide,” she explained. “Getting them to feel how many jumps it was to get from one 10 to another … if they had the number 27, they would draw a line from 20 to 30 and then they would stand on 27 and figure out how many hops it took to get to 20 or 30.”
In addition to teaching, Hendrickson is part of the Electronic Curriculum Map (ECM) team for Frederick County. This past summer, she was on team with the curriculum specialist team for math and science for all of Frederick County. Hendrickson now meets monthly with a group of other curriculum specialists, and they collaborate on creating material for teachers to access.
“I think it has a lot to do with my passion for how kids learn and being able to equip other teachers with tools to teach well because teachers might be stuck in a box of giving out a worksheet, and that’s all they know to do,” she said of the ECM team. She explained that currently her team creates a map of resources for teachers to use — interactive websites to visit with students or teaching games to play. “I do feel like I am contributing those resources rather than keeping them all to myself.”
Hendrickson said she could see herself writing curriculum full-time at some point in the future. For now, Hendrickson keeps herself busy teaching, part of the ECM team and at her Columbia home, taking care of her 8-month-old son. She also heads up the Family Feeder program at her Catonsville church, Connections Church. As head of the Family Feeder Theater program, she directs monthly skits and facilitates monthly events that show parents what the children have been learning all month at church.
To drop Hendrickson a line about her work at Green Valley or as part of the ECM team, email firstname.lastname@example.org.