It’s an hour past dismissal at Garden Springs Elementary and any questions about the influence of second-grade teacher Michelle Shreffler are answered when 10-year-old Leila Scott enters the classroom and melts into Shreffler’s lap.
Is Mrs. Shreffler a good teacher? “She’s awesome and we did lots of fun projects with her,” said Leila, Shreffler’s former student and a fifth grader now.
Fifteen minutes after Leila departs, two more children visit Shreffler to get hugs, which wouldn’t surprise her principal, Jimmy Brehm.
“What sets Michelle apart is the classroom environment that she creates,” he said. “Kids don’t want to leave and they can’t wait to get back.
“She loves her kids and they respond to that. That’s something that can’t be taught.”
If ever someone was born for the classroom, it’s Shreffler. When she was in sixth grade, she presented a project to the class about her desire to teach.
“I feel that God called me to teaching,” she said. “He gave me certain gifts to do that. Besides, what other job gives you the chance to change 24 young lives?”
Shreffler is a traveler, visiting Europe and most of the U.S. She loves movies and gardening, and is happiest when outdoors. Every summer, she camps for two to three weeks with her parents and extended family in Western Pennsylvania.
But the classroom is where she really lives.
After graduating from Asbury University in 2002 (she also has a master’s degree from Asbury), she joined the staff at Garden Springs where she has taught Kindergarten through third grade.
Shreffler is a bit of an actor in class, using exaggerated facial expressions and voices to convey drama. But she’s 100% genuine when it comes to modeling behavior and expectations.
“If I want kind and considerate behavior, then I model that. The same with being tolerant and saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’” she said.
Her students also learn generosity from Shreffler, who invites students and families to her home once a year to make sugar cookies or to a group picnic at Shillito Park.
“It’s all about building community,” she said. “I’m excited to be a teacher. Every time they learn something new it fills your tank. It makes you want to come back and keep going, keep impacting lives.”
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