Spotlight: Michaela Lamarre (ME '15)February 1, 2016
Have you ever held a baby snow leopard or fixed dinner for a hungry polar bear? Former volunteer zookeeper and Milken Educator Michaela Lamarre has. Lamarre, a science teacher at Saco Middle School in Saco, Maine, received her Milken Educator Award on December 10, 2015.
Milken Family Foundation: How did you end up in education?
Michaela Lamarre: Oddly enough, if you asked me as a teen what I wanted to be, my answer was never "a teacher." I entered the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) as a science major and truly enjoyed my experience with their science program. During my sophomore year I met my husband, and he convinced me to try education courses. As soon as I began taking education courses, I had my "aha" moment and realized that science education was the correct path for me.
MFF: What was your first job ever?
Michaela: My first job was working in a small retail store as a salesperson. I learned the importance of customer service; it was important to me that customers enjoyed their experience and wanted to return. Today, in my classroom, I keep this in mind when designing lessons. I hope that students are engaged in science, enjoy the lesson, and are eager for the next class.
MFF: We hear you worked as a volunteer zookeeper.
Michaela: That was an amazing experience. The best part of the job was being able to interact with exotic animals. I’ll never forget being able to hold a baby snow leopard or preparing meals while a polar bear eagerly watched. I also learned a lot from the zookeepers and veterinary staff; their knowledge of and compassion for the animals was extraordinary. The worst part was looking at your clothing at the end of the day and playing "guess that stain."
MFF: Who was your most memorable teacher?
Michaela: In high school I was a member of the Army JROTC program. The three retired Army personnel who were the instructors are my most memorable educators. Not simply because I learned
a lot of engaging content in their classrooms, but because I knew they genuinely cared about my success and well-being.
MFF: Tell us about your first year of teaching.
Michaela: The hardest thing about my first year of teaching was learning to be flexible. I would spend hours every night lesson planning and (naively) expected that my time preparing materials
would translate into being able to implement the lesson smoothly. I learned how incorrect I was very quickly! With the support of my colleagues, I discovered strategies that would allow me to adapt lessons based on what my students needed.
MFF: A student tells you he/she is thinking about a career in education. What do you say?
Michaela: Sharing knowledge and working collaboratively to learn and problem-solve is what moves a community forward. I would encourage any student who is passionate about a content area and sharing that knowledge to enter into the field of education. I think the best way to convince them would be to share my experiences, both good and bad, and provide them with experiences that
would enable them to make the best decision for themselves.
MFF: What impact do you think your Milken Educator Award presentation had on students at your school?
Michaela: The Milken Educator Award presentation was a wonderful experience for my school community. Teachers don't earn this award on their own; it requires the support and encouragement of colleagues and students. The presentation brought our school community together, helped to shine a light on all the hard work we are doing, and reminded us to be proud of who we are as a community.
MFF: What's your favorite time of the school day?
Michaela: Right before the homeroom bell rings. Students are waiting in my classroom for their day to begin. I hear about the activities they are participating in, how they feel school is going, etc. We don’t often have time for these conversations during class, so I appreciate this time and the chance to hear the students' perspective.
MFF: If someone gave you a million dollars to use in your school, what would you do with it?
Michaela: I would create and support programs that use project-based learning approaches to connect students with their communities and STEAM career opportunities. We need to engage students in their education so that they find value in school and are entering careers in which they find success and advance our communities forward.
MFF: When you retire (someday), what do you want your former students and colleagues to say about you?
Michaela: That I created a classroom culture conducive to success. As a member of my school community, I hope to encourage a safe and engaging atmosphere in which all students and staff are excited to exchange ideas and digest new information with their individual styles of learning. I also hope students say they felt encouraged to be inquisitive about the world around them.
MFF: If you hadn't chosen a career in education, what would you be doing right now?
Michaela: I do believe that I would be working in the field of science (most likely geology).
MFF: Finish this sentence: "I know I’m succeeding as an educator when…."
Michaela: "...a struggling student grins with confidence because he or she has found success."
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