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“God Directed My Steps Towards Teaching.”

As Mahtomedi’s Teacher of the Year, Michlyn Newman ’93 is stressing how important it is for teachers to support students to help them thrive.

By Jason Schoonover ’09, content specialist

January 29, 2019 | Noon

Michlyn Newman ’93, Mahtomedi Public School’s Teacher of the Year, credits her faith for leading her into teaching and keeping her where she belongs: teaching kindergarten.

Michlyn Newman ’93, Mahtomedi Public School’s Teacher of the Year, credits her faith for leading her into teaching and keeping her where she belongs: teaching kindergarten.

Michlyn Newman ’93 is using her platform as Mahtomedi Public School’s Teacher of the Year to emphasize the importance of teachers believing in students.

During a back-to-school address last year to her colleagues, she stressed that many students who struggle and eventually find success say it’s because a teacher believed in them. Kids can struggle in school for many reasons, but Newman says they often lose hope and stop thriving when adults like teachers don’t support them. “We need to believe in students,” she said in her address. “They need to know we have their back. And we need to help them plan for the future.”

That’s a formula Newman tries to emulate each day in her Wildwood Elementary School kindergarten classroom as a calm teacher who creates a positive environment for kids. “I really believe in my classroom that every kid should feel like it’s a safe, well-structured classroom,” she says. “So they can kind of let down, just be themselves, and know what the expectations are. We build community in our classroom in terms of helping kids to feel supported by each other, and also empowered to be advocates for themselves.”

“I love all my students. They make me laugh every day. It’s the most rewarding job because you get hugs all day long, and it’s the funniest job because the things they say make you laugh all the time.”

— Michlyn Newman ’93, Mahtomedi Public School’s Teacher of the Year

Wildwood Peer Coach Helen Edinger calls Newman a deserving choice for Teach of the Year. She describes Newman as humble, kind, calm, poised, and elegant. “She’s so positive and patient and you can really see that she just has a deep love for every kid,” Edinger says. “She just exemplifies kind of the perfect kindergarten teacher. She’s nurturing. She really does care about their learning.”

‘A Treasure’

One tool Newman uses to teach her students and build community is books. As a teacher, she loves helping 5- and 6-year-olds learn to read and write, and each year she finds rich writing to help her students learn and consider new ideas.

Newman was an avid reader from a young age, but she says a children’s literature course at Bethel instilled a love of great children’s picture books. “My professor would hold up a book, and she would treat it as a treasure and it would get you excited,” she said. “I wanted to get the book. I wanted to read the book. So as a teacher, that’s carried over.”

Newman also says children need to see themselves in books, but books can also act as a window into someone else’s world. That can develop compassion and expose children to new ideas. As a teacher, Newman says she has limited life stories, but books can share countless experiences. “There’s just something about a book that can open up a different world to students,” she says.

‘God Directed My Steps’

Despite a successful teaching career, Newman actually entered Bethel seeking a different major. But she switched to become an education major after she realized she enjoyed working with children. “Ultimately I look back and say that God directed my steps towards teaching, because in college I don’t think I knew what I wanted to do,” she says. 

Newman says Bethel was a great experience that led to lifelong relationships and strengthened her faith. “I met my husband and I made some lifelong friends that have influenced me and influenced my faith,” she says. “It was a pivotal time to grow in my faith and I’m very thankful for those people around me.”

Her husband, Keith ’92, also majored in education, teaches eighth grade at Mahtomedi Middle School, and is Mahtomedi’s head basketball coach. They have four children: their son Samuel ’19 is attending Bethel, while their sons Trey and Kenlove are attending other colleges, and their daughter Avalyn is a junior in Mahtomedi. 

Just as God guided her steps into teaching, she says God has kept her where she belongs: teaching kindergarten. “I honestly think it’s where God has always had me,” she says. “I really think that’s true.”

Newman remembers the teacher she student taught with as a Bethel student telling her she hadn’t experienced a boring day in more than two decades of teaching. She could always find delight. Today, Newman feels the same way about teaching kindergarten. “I love all my students,” she says. “They make me laugh every day. It’s the most rewarding job because you get hugs all day long, and it’s the funniest job because the things they say make you laugh all the time.”

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