Alumna pays it forward with teaching career
In eighth grade, a teacher cautioned “think smaller” when Stephanie Messel shared what she hoped would be her life’s work. She credits a few Macomb faculty, as well as author Stephenie Meyer, for convincing her that there was no limit to what she should dream or could do.
“I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was in second grade,” says Messel, who earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Wayne State University last year and teaches middle school at My Virtual Academy (MVA). “My learning disabilities left me behind in many areas, but they also helped me succeed in others. Today, I am able to connect to my students on their learning levels because I have been there.”
Students attending MVA often experience difficulty learning in a traditional classroom, as Messel once did. Assigned early on to special education classes, she worked through her memory and comprehension issues and “grew out of them” by high school. Still, one learning obstacle still lingered. Enrolling at Macomb, she met with Counselor Patricia Dolengowski and disclosed a debilitating test anxiety. Dolengowski arranged for Messel to take all of her tests at the Learning Center, and soon the education major was outperforming her own, and one former teacher’s, expectations.
“By the time I transferred to Wayne State (at Macomb’s University Center), I no longer needed test-taking accommodations,” says Messel. “Macomb helped me make that transition. I love that school.”
The daughter of two teachers and sister of a John Hopkins professor, Messel also loves teaching. This year, she is teaching seventh graders math, science, language arts, social studies and history, as well as two electives: journalism and health, which she creatively customized based on the MVA syllabus.
“One of my students asked me if I like my job, because I always sound so happy,” relates Messel, who conducts her classes via computer, Skype and weekly telephone calls to all of her students. “And I do, but I one hundred percent want to experience teaching in a classroom.”
And she is also one hundred percent certain that working at DisneyWorld helped her develop the confidence she needed to teach others.
“What a great experience. That was my living away from home,” says Messel, who spent over a year in the Magic Kingdom, on three different assignments through Macomb’s Career Services. “It opened me up to different cultures. I even learned a little bit of Portuguese from one of my roommates.”
Messel also took American Sign Language at Macomb and as many social science and history courses as she could, after discovering in a class on Egypt and from the Twilight books, that she has a passion for both learning facts and reading fiction. “As long,” she says of the later, “that it has a happy ending.”
And, like her student’s learning issues, happy endings are another thing she knows a little bit about.
“I’m living my dream,” says Messel, who will soon be pursuing a master’s degree in education. “Macomb helped me prove some people wrong. You can’t let anyone bring you down. Whatever you want to do, you just have to try.”