Michael Fleury ’18 is reinventing how students think about literature’s relationship to modern society.

“O Romeo, Romeo…”

Ask any high school graduate what they think of Shakespeare, and you’re likely to hear murmurs of the Elizabethan playwright being, among other things, difficult to read. For Michael Fleury ’18, changing this perception of the Bard starts with a play that is synonymous with high school English: Romeo and Juliet.

Photo of Michael Fleury '18, secondary education and English literature double major“In the fifth scene to the first act, there’s a long extended metaphor that I like to pick apart,” he said. “We kind of joke around, but we’re still getting to the point where we’re making these connections, knowing the content. I think making it that way–making it more lively and more of a discussion–helps students retain the information better.”

A double major in secondary education and English, Michael started working full-time at Agawam High School in the spring of his senior year. He credits his teaching practicum experience, along with the networking he did as a student teacher, with leading to a unique job offer. When a teacher at AHS went on maternity leave in spring 2018, Michael assumed full responsibility for her classes until the end of the academic year.

Gaining this experience was invaluable. In fall 2018, Michael joined Palmer High School as an English teacher. In addition to teaching literature, he also advises the school newspaper and a weekly video podcast.

Building Student Confidence

The West Springfield, MA, native chose to specialize in secondary education because he appreciated the more mature, sophisticated conversations that teenagers are capable of having about literature. And even though managing a high school classroom isn’t without its challenges, Michael has already sparked positive transformations in his students by fostering a supportive learning environment.

“Three weeks in, I’m starting to see them come around and gain that confidence I’m trying to instill in them,” he said. “Having that confidence in themselves plays a huge role in their success.”

'Having that confidence in themselves plays a huge role in their success.'

Education majors at Elms College accumulate a minimum of 300 hours of classroom observation and 100 hours of teaching experience prior to graduating. All of this time spent in the classroom helps new teachers shape their teaching personas and put their educational philosophies into practice. For Michael, everything clicked once he was up at the front of the room.

“As far as preparation goes with the program, it helped just knowing in the back of my mind certain management styles, having a content base, and knowing how to handle student accommodations,” he explained. “When I took over in my classes, all those things came to fruition, and I built on them, because I was on my own.”

Personal Growth

While Michael’s efforts to draw modern parallels to Romeo and Juliet resonated with his students, he also ended up going through a personal transformation of sorts, too. Before he came to Elms, he described himself as soft-spoken and shy. Once he started pursuing his passion as an educator, though, his potential as a leader started to blossom.

“I’m very soft-spoken, which doesn’t go well with teaching,” he said. “But when you’re in that role, you know you have to speak up, you have to be that leading voice. Knowing that — but then also giving mock lessons and presentations in classes, really strengthened my confidence in front of a room.”

'Giving mock lessons and presentations in classes really strengthened my confidence in front of a room.'

Michael’s dedication ultimately earned him the prestigious Monsignor John Harrington Award in 2018, which is granted to an outstanding senior majoring in education.

Looking back on his practicum experience, Michael’s advice for future education majors comes down to classroom management.

“Don’t worry so much about the content. You’re going to know it,” he said. “Focus more on classroom management. If you can’t control the room, you can’t teach. If everybody is just staring off into space and doing their own thing, they’re not going to respect you. They’re not going to know what they’re learning.”

Once he has a full year of teaching experience under his belt, Michael plans on attending graduate school to earn his Master of Education and Master of Arts in English degrees.

Are you the type of person who prefers books to movies? Do you laugh at the mention of SparkNotes or CliffsNotes because you always finish your English homework early? If this sounds familiar, a career as an English teacher might be the perfect fit for you. Contact us or schedule a campus visit to learn more.