Michele Anderson ’94, ‘00
by Ashley Hutcherson
Michele Anderson graduated from Eastern with a Bachelor of Arts in History and a Secondary Education degree in 1994 and a Master of Arts in History in 2000. Michele is entering her 17th year teaching Social Studies at John Glenn High School in Westland, where she is also the head of the Social Studies department. She is extremely passionate about social studies and history, encouraging her students to enjoy it as well.
Michele’s historiographic journey began in the Honors College at Eastern. Michele was a resident advisor, a member of the University Ambassador Program, she presented at the XIII Symposium, and president of Eastern's Mortar Board, a national honor society for college seniors.
“Eastern had the reputation for graduating great teachers and I already knew I was becoming an educator,” Michele continued. “I decided to accept the scholarship and take advantage of Ypsilanti's proximity to my hometown.”
Michele’s love for teaching and history started long before EMU. Her passion for history and WWII originated with her grandfather. He was a survivor of the Bataan Death March and a slave soldier of the Japanese. “He was the subject of the paper I presented at the Symposium,” Michele said. “He attended my presentation at the Symposium. We had a difficult time leaving because so many people wanted to speak with him about his experiences.” And she wanted to become a teacher after witnessing one of her childhood teacher’s picking on another student. “The student started to cry and I remember deciding to become a teacher to make sure that would never happen in my class,” Michele said.
Her work and dedication on WWII history is what brought attention to her classroom. Michele was honored with the Michigan History Teacher of the Year and National History Teacher of the Year in 2014 by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Michele is the first teacher from Michigan to receive either of these awards.
“The NHTOY award has been a tremendous honor for me and is a reflection of how great my colleagues, students and administrators are in my district,” Michele shared. “Without their help this award would not have been possible.”
Michele spent a lot of time researching and traveling to the sites of WWII. She said “I worked with the Detroit Historical Museum developing lessons for the Museum's Arsenal of Democracy display.”
Over the course of three years, Michele’s students have interviewed forty-one WWII, Korean, Berlin Airlift, and Vietnam veterans and defense workers. She plans to interview 50 more by the end of the school year, submitting them into the Library of Congress.
Michele credits her professors for helping her reach her goals. “Dr. Vinyard was always showing students varied approaches to learning history,” said Michele. “I received an excellent education and would not be where I am today without them.
On a final note, Michele offered some advice to Education students and new teachers. She said, “Don’t be afraid to ask experienced teachers for help. Being a new teacher is so much more demanding than when I started teaching. The new evaluation system is requiring so much time of teachers that takes them away from doing other tasks that teachers really need to do to help students. You don't have to do it all alone. We have all been there! And try to have fun! If you're not enjoying the subject, then neither are your students.”