School: Whitlow Elementary
Years teaching: 12
When Michelle Curry started her first year at the University of North Georgia, she had no idea where she wanted her career to go.
On one hand, she has always had a passion for dance, starting in ballet, tap, jazz and hip-hop when she was only three years old. But at the same time, she came from a long line of teachers. Both her mom and her sister had taken up what she knows from growing up in a classroom is a worthwhile profession.
Without any idea what she should do, Curry decided to test out teaching before deciding on her major by teaching dance during her freshman year.
“If I love to teach my hobby, then I must love to teach,” Curry said.
She loved every moment of it.
From there, she earned a dual bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and Special Education before starting her first job as a Georgia Pre-K teacher at a private school. She remained in private schools for 11 years, teaching dance classes after school every afternoon.
She eventually switched over to a public school three years ago, specifically seeking out Forsyth County Schools before landing a job as a kindergarten teacher at Whitlow Elementary School.
With a dedication to her little kids at school and their families, the community voted Curry as Forsyth County News’ Teacher of the Month for September. The FCN spoke with Curry about her transition from Pre-K to kindergarten, what she loves most about teaching kindergarten and her continuing love of dance.
What has the difference been for you going from teaching in Pre-K in private school and going to kindergarten in public school?
“I have noticed that there is a lot more support from the administration and your teammates. There is also a lot more resources available to us and a lot more technology, so I would say those would be the three main things.
I found that I wanted to incorporate more technology, which Forsyth County is huge on. I was really interested in STEM, and Whitlow is a STEM school. So that really caught my eye because I wanted to become more of a STEM teacher also.
And it’s been a real eye-opener to see the gap between Pre-K and kindergarten and being able to see what are the standards for Pre-K versus the standards for kindergarten …. Some babies come in really low and some come in high based on what they had in Pre-K or if they went to Pre-K. We’re seeing that a lot this year that a lot of these babies didn’t go to Pre-K last year because of the pandemic.”
What do you like most about teaching kindergarten?
“The aha moments.
You see a lot of growth with the kinders. Granted, with other grades you see growth, but I think you see the most growth with the kindergarten babies because that is the fastest time that their brain is growing. I mean, there is just so much learning, and they just come so far.
They come to us not even knowing how to take their coat off or how to put their bookbag on. Coming from that to being able to write 2-3 sentences by themselves and reading 120 words — it’s just huge.”
Do you still dance when you have free time?
“I’m not currently teaching an actual class. I do maybe one-on-one sessions here and there …. I did teach dance every single afternoon [before]. So I would leave my Pre-K class at 3 and go teach dance at 3:30, and I would teach dance every day 3:30 to 9:30.
I was teaching from 7:30 to 9:30 every day. I would say I did that from 2003 to 2019.
I had no life, but it was my passion, it was my hobby. I loved it, and with private school, it was a lot more flexible as far as me being able to teach at another job.
When I switched over to public school, I wanted to be able to put all of my eggs into this basket. I just wanted to make sure I was on point and doing everything I needed to. And I just haven’t gone back to teaching dance every day.
Now that I haven’t done it for a while, it is nice coming home in the afternoons, but I still offer my services to those who may need a cleanup on one of their dances for a recital or a competition.
I also judge dance competitions. It’s called Star Power, and I judged for them for a year which was super cool. I just love the costumes and the choreography. I don’t miss every Tuesday teaching the class, but I miss the competitions and the recitals and the costumes and overall outcome of their dances.”
Outside of dancing, do you have any hobbies or any other things you like to do outside of the classroom?
I love photography. I was a photo tech for 10 years at Wolf Camera at CVS Pharmacy, so I’ve always been huge into photography.
I do have another job on top of that called Beauty Counter, and it’s a safer and non-toxic personal care product company. We sell anything from kids’ products to men’s products to women’s products. Face cleansers, body washes, lotions, baby balm, makeup.
It’s all clean products because I wanted to start getting the toxic things out of my life, and I decided to partner up with Beauty Counter. I have been a consultant with them going on four years.