Lee County Schools Teacher of the Week: Michelle Pinto

Jan. 10, 2013 @ 05:20 PM

Name: Michelle Pinto

School: Floyd L. Knight, The Children’s Center 

Grades/subjects you teach: Preschool

E-mail address: mpinto.flk@lee.k12.nc.us 

Date, place of birth: Feb. 7, 1981, Chatham County, N.C.

Education (high school & college attended, degrees): Northwood High School, Pittsboro, N.C. – general education; Central Carolina Community College, Sanford/Pittsboro, N.C. - A.A. College Transfer; School of Communication Arts; Raleigh, N.C. – digital art and computer animation; East Carolina University; Greenville, N.C. — B.S., birth – kindergarten education

Brief work history:

Floyd L. Knight School; Sanford, N.C.,  five years

Chatham Child Development Center (CCDC); Siler City, N.C., one year

InfoGraphix, Inc., Chapel Hill, N.C., four years

Teaching honors/awards: Elected to be the leadership chairperson by fellow staff for the 2012-2013 school year, received a certificate of accomplishment from the North Carolina's Touchstone Energy Cooperatives as a 2009-10 Bright Ideas Grant Award recipient, along with coworkers Audrey Beachler and Angela Davenport

Hobbies/interests outside teaching: Photography and videography, I actually do a lot of wedding photography and video creation on weekends and during the summer.

Family: I've been happily married for nine-and-a-half years to Mike Pinto with an 8-year-old daughter, Courtney. I live in Chatham County, next door to my parents, Jim and Mary Muehlbach. I am happy to say I am newly an aunt; my brother, Jake, and his wife, Anita, just had a baby girl on Dec. 17. 

ON TEACHING

What led you to a career as a teacher? I decided to become a teacher after the birth of my daughter. I enjoyed watching her grow and helping her develop. I realized how important it is to build appropriate foundations early in childhood. I was driven to learn more about how to support her, as well as having a schedule that closely resembles hers throughout her childhood to spend more quality time with her and my family during the summer.

Who were your favorite teachers as you went through school, and what did you learn from them? My favorite teacher was my fourth/fifth grade teacher at Pittsboro Primary, Mrs. Linda Thompson. She taught us to value learning and to keep trying and have self respect. She was also genuinely caring toward students, and I loved that. My other favorite was Mr. Triffaro at Northwood in high school because he taught us to question things and really think for ourselves more than just accepting hearsay.

Has becoming a teacher been all you expected it would be? Becoming a teacher has been all that I expected and more. The joy of seeing a child come into my classroom who cannot speak or walk, but then move on to kindergarten having gained so many skills, is just a blessing to me. There are many challenges, but knowing that you really can make a difference in the life of a child makes it all worth it.

How has teaching changed since you were a student? There is definitely more paperwork associated with being a teacher than I would have ever realized as a student. I think that there are a lot more resources for teachers and parents, such as school specialists, mentors and even just the Internet. 

What "makes your day" as a teacher? The smiles, giggles, hugs and silly comments from the students

What's working in schools today? I am seeing a more fluid inclusion of specialists such as speech therapists, occupational therapists and physical therapists coming into the classroom to help students reach goals. 

What's not working? Paperwork can sometimes be a burden that takes us as teachers out of the classroom where our time is most valuable.

What's your favorite memory of your first year as a teacher? My favorite memory from my first year is being able to give the superlatives at preschool graduation and list off all of the accomplishments that “my kids” were able to make with our instruction and encouragement. 

How would your "teacher" persona handle you as a student? I would encourage myself to pursue the arts and give plenty of reminders to use my “listening ears” more often (I was a “chatterbox”).

Best piece of advice for other teachers? Be flexible.

For students? Be a positive leader, not a follower.

For parents? Ask questions and be supportive of the teacher. 

If you were superintendent for a day, you'd: Give everyone working with children a bonus

What about your job would surprise your non-teaching friends the most? The amount of stress and labor that it takes throughout a day. I know many people see preschool as “babysitting;” however, there are lesson plans, paperwork, lifting, sweating and worrying that they do not consider. Diaper changes are sometimes like trauma in the ER. 

If you could somehow magically instill one truth into the heads of your students, what would it be? “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

When you think about today's kids, you: I realize how much they have given to them, so that they often miss out on the fun of figuring things out on their own. 

If one of your students was asked for a one-word description of you by a student who hadn't had you in class, what would that one word be? Silly

Favorite movie about school or teaching: "The Breakfast Club" shows how we can bypass stereotypes that are placed on students, sometimes even by the education system, to see validity in each person. 

How would you summarize your teaching philosophy? A preschool teacher should provide a safe and age-appropriate learning environment for children of all differing abilities, cultures and learning styles. Involving parents and using “play” as an arena, I will encourage children with interactive motivation to experience social, emotional, cognitive and motor learning.

What five things must every teacher know?

1. Every child is different.

2. There is more than one way to do everything.

3. Each day is a new day; forget yesterday's baggage.

4. Your coworkers are supportive if you let them know when you need help.

5. Your principal is a good resource; ask questions.

What's special about your classroom? Ms. Fox and Ms. Garrett help me to make our classroom a fun and educational environment while being genuinely caring toward our students. Our students are a unique bunch who make every day special. There is always something exciting and new. 

What's special about your school? The students may need a lot more support and have to work much harder to reach their goals than do students at a “mainstream” school, but that makes their goals that much more valuable to those who love them.

Most unusual question you've ever gotten from a student? "Are you a grown up?”