Butler hopes students find energy in her classroom

Published 12:01 am Tuesday, May 5, 2015

NW0505 Teacher of the Year Michelle Butler A

T.A. Dugger Junior High School science teacher Michelle Butler has a passion for science and she hopes to pass some of that excitement on to her students.

She was recently recognized as TAD’s Teacher of the Year for grades 5-8 and specialty areas. Butler mainly teaches eighth-grade science along with some sixth-grade science classes.

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“The moment I had ninth grade biology, I fell in love,” Butler said, her face lighting up with excitement. “It was amazing to me how it fits together, how everything is so intricate. These are the building blocks of life and if one tiny detail is changed, then nothing works the way it is supposed to.”

Butler has been a teacher for seven years, all of them with the Elizabethton City School system at T.A. Dugger.

“The idea of having an office job just did not appeal to me,” Butler said. “I liked the idea of working directly with the students. They are the future of our world, and I can interact with them and have an impact on them.”

During her college classes, Butler was inspired by her physics professor and hopes that she brings a similar experience to her students.

“My professor was so energetic,” she said. “I wanted to be like that, to transfer that energy, that passion and that knowledge on to my students. One of my biggest hopes is that the students leave my classroom wanting to do more.”

Butler tries to keep her classes structured and organized so that students know what to expect on any day. As a teacher, she says she looks forward to the days when students get lab time for some hands-on experience.

“Lab days are both the hardest and the best days,” Butler said. “They are the hardest to plan for, but they are the best because students get time in small groups. I get the chance to go to each student one-on-one to ask how they are doing and observe.”

Butler grew up in Charlotte, N.C. and was homeschooled all the way through to high school graduation. She attended King University and received her bachelor’s degree in biology education.

“My first experience with public school was when I started teaching,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting how strict you have to be time-wise. You are confined to a set amount of time, and you have to use that time in the best way you can.”

Butler initially wanted to teach high-school level science, but after student teaching at Vance Middle School in Bristol, she decided middle school was where she wanted to be.

“I interviewed for this position, and I left with the job,” Butler said. “I have been here ever since, and I love teaching eighth-grade science.”   

Butler’s colleagues at T.A. Dugger nominated her for the Teacher of the Year award, the first time Butler has received the honor.

“I wondered ‘Why me?’” Butler said. “We have such a great pool of teachers here at T.A. Dugger. I don’t feel that I am any better than any of the other teachers here. Everyone gives their all and works hard for the students and enjoys being here. Why should I be recognized over everyone else?”

Butler’s students agree with the decision to name their teacher Teacher of the Year.

Eighth-grader Clay Gwinn said Butler’s energy in the classroom made science class more enjoyable.

“You know she wants to be here,” Gwinn said. “She explains things to where we can always understand them. We get the concepts we need to know.”

Maddie Lasater, also in eighth grade, said time in Butler’s class helped her understand science better.

“I have always liked science, but I wasn’t very big on it before,” Lasater said. “It was easy for me before, but this year it just hit me and I understand everything better. Ms. Butler is always a good teacher and she is a nice person.”

Science has always been Gavin Forsythe’s favorite subject, but this year it is “a lot more interesting.”

“This year has been a lot more fun than science usually has been,” he said. “Ms. Butler always tries to answer our questions and help us through our lessons. She makes it fun to be here.”