Educator of the Month: Michelle Praria: At Home in the Classroom

EducatorWhen third-grade teacher Michelle Praria calls Northside Elementary home, it’s almost literally true.

Everywhere she looks, she sees family members and familiar faces.

When Praria entered second grade at Midway Elementary, her mother, Debbie Gilliam, became a kindergarten assistant, a job she has held for 25 years. (When a new
elementary school was built 20 years ago, it was named Northside.)

A generation after they went to school together, a third generation from her family is at Northside – Praria’s daughter MacKenzie is a fifth-grader at the school.

And Praria’s son, Brad, a 13-year-old at Woodford County Middle, also attended Northside.

In between being a student and teacher at Northside, Praria stayed connected to the school.

At Woodford County High, she shadowed Shelby Ison, still at the school as the curriculum coach. In college, she observed in Pamela Hutchison’s class and did her student
teaching with Debbie Burdine, the school’s kindergarten teacher.

When a position opened nine years ago, it seemed destined that Praria would be hired.

On her first day, her co-teacher was Donna Rousey, who just happened to be one of Praria’s second-grade teachers.

“Northside is a special place,” Praria said. “I always wanted to teach here. It’s home.” And she spends as much time at that home as she does her residence.

“She has a passion to help kids learn and she’ll do whatever it takes,” Principal Ryan Asher said. “Hers is often the last car you see in the parking lot.”

Praria’s classroom is a lively place where she engages students through educational games.

It’s also a plugged-in place. Students perform tasks at the Smartboard and at their desks on iPads.

Those 21st-century tools help to reinforce her teaching goal of
developing curious students.

“Curiosity is my most important rule in the class,” she said. “I want to inspire my students to be curious, which is something they can take with them.

“Curiosity will make problem-solvers and creative people, which is what they really need to be in today’s world.”

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