LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Meghan Michals

Position: English Teacher
School: Southland College Prep Charter High School
School District: Matteson District 162
City, State: Richton Park, IL

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Meghan Michals was nominated by her superintendent, Dr. Blondean Davis.

Ms. Michals is a teacher who is not only changing lives, but someone who students credit with saving their lives. She teaches honors British Literature and AP English and Composition at Southland College Prep Charter High School. Ms. Michals graduated from the University of Illinois with a bachelor’s degree in English and a focus in writing. She earned a master's degree in education at National Louis University. She started teaching at Southland, a non–profit public charter high school which educates primarily African-American students.

“Ms. Michals essentially saved my life," said Angel Jackson, a former student. "My senior year of high school was a super low time for me. Ms. Michals was able to identify that and not only bring me out of that but gave me skills so that I would be able to change the world. That’s how she changed my life.”

All of Southland’s graduates have been accepted by colleges and universities, including seven of the eight Ivy League schools. Students have been offered substantial merit-based scholarships totaling more than $75 million. Ms. Michals is one of the people who has been a great part of student success. Her teaching philosophy is to care about how her students are doing academically, socially, and emotionally. As a certified yoga instructor, Ms. Michals sponsors the school yoga club, which meets once a week and works with students to help them with challenges, such as emotional regulation, behavior interventions, stress management, and conflict resolution. She is a master teacher who makes literature come alive for her students at Southland. Most importantly, she cares about the lives of her students.

“She is not only a master teacher—she always has high energy, creative, higher level thinking lessons—but she connects to our students on a human level," said Sherry Grutzius, a colleague. "They gravitate to her kind nature. She has helped numerous students through the rough spots of being a teenager. Not only is Ms. Michals making an impact on students at Southland, she is also helping to shape the curriculum at the local elementary schools."

Ms. Michals and Mrs. Grutzius applied for and were awarded a grant to share Southland’s college-ready writing program “Writing Your Future,” with the local elementary school district and other Illinois and U.S. school districts. Students credit her with preparing them for writing in college and even changing their lives in general.

Christian Davis, a co-valedictorian of Southland’s Class of 2016, said Ms. Michals helped him through a particularly difficult time personally during his senior year when he had a hard time even completing college applications. When he graduated, Davis was accepted by 36 colleges and universities, including Harvard. He attends Stanford University, where he is majoring in engineering.

“She was one of the few people who I could talk to,” Davis said. “If she wasn’t there I wouldn’t be at Stanford. She helped me understand why I was doing what I was doing and helped me find new reasons and a driving force.”

"Meghan Michals is an educational visionary whose positive energy is contagious," Dr. Blondean Davis said. "She is a master teacher who makes literature come alive and prepares students for college. She is a leader who exemplifies excellence. She is a teacher who cares. She is definitely a LifeChanger who is making a difference in the lives of students."

Comments (8)

Miquela Thornton Posted over a year ago

Stepping foot in Ms. Michals classroom is like stepping into a safe space: a haven of inclusiveness, empowerment, curiosity, energy, and ingenuity. She makes literature come alive from our textbooks, and makes sure each and every one of our voices are heard. I've been a student of hers for the last 2 years, and before that, I never had an English teacher who cared so much about not only the learning of her students, but also of their overall day-to-day well-being. Most people simply ask "How are you?" just as a means to be polite; however, Ms. Michals asks it because she's genuinely concerned. She knows we all lead stressful lives as juniors and seniors: being a student at a college prep school, preparing for the SAT/ACT, and going through the college application process. She meditates with us to make sure that our lives are never too hectic, overall ensuring that we are mentally healthy. Except, what makes her most wonderful, is the fact that she listens and believes in us. I've always wanted to be a writer, but I've never had someone believe in me as much as Ms. Michals has. She encourages me to follow my dream and teaches me ways to perfect my craft and become an even better writer. Ms. Michals should win the LifeChanger of the Year award because that is truly what she is: a life changer. She made me believe in myself even when no one else did, and allows me to believe that I can get into my dream schools and become an author. her door is always open if I am not okay, or just need to talk. She is amazing and is an inspiration, and I am proud to say that I get to step into her classroom everyday during 5th period. For just under an hour a day, I am enclosed in an engaged classroom, full of happy, smiling students, some who rarely smile otherwise, and taught by a teacher who's smile never ever fades. Thank you, Ms. Michals.

Aaron G Posted over a year ago

Ms. Michals is a amazing teacher and is possibly one of the best and most involved teachers I've ever had. Her genuine care for her students and their well-being makes the class feel more natural and gives it a comfortable feeling. This makes her almost like a mother. She knows just what to say or do to break bad moods and uplift spirits. She creates like a mental safe zone for others and just the energy she emits daily is enough to brighten anybody's mood. Ms. Michals has definitely changed my life for the better!

Katie Clemons Posted over a year ago

Mrs. Michals is not only a wonderful teacher but a wonderful and pure person. She is always open to help and give advice whether it be about school work or personal issues. When she speaks she draws everyone’s attention with her big antics and proud voice. She deserves to be nominated for life changer of the year because she’s an influential woman who speaks her truths and truly has inspired me to persist, work hard and connect with my inner self. Picking her is the WAY TO GO :)

Sydney M Posted over a year ago

Ms. Michals is so genuine and energetic and she always knows how to find the interesting, wonderful side of things, even Shakespeare! She finds an excellent balance of challenging me as a student but not making me feel extremely over-whelmed or discouraged. There should definitely be more teachers like her in world, actually, not even even teachers but just more people like her in general.

Indya Gettings Posted over a year ago

Ms. Michals is a unique, beautiful spirit and a caring , compassionate teacher who really cares about her students. I honestly have never had an English teacher or any other teacher be as passionate about teaching as Ms. Michals is. You can tell that she genuinely loves what she does and wants each and every one of her students to succeed. Ms. Michals brings every selection that we read to life and spreads positivity throughout every room she is in. Whenever I doubt myself and my abilities, Ms. Michals is always there to remind me about how special I am and never lets me give up, and that is an attribute that only an extraordinary teacher can possess. Ms. Michals is the most deserving of this award because she is an amazing teacher and an amazing person.

Oladamola Ola-Buraimo Posted over a year ago

Ms. Michals is a great English teacher. She has empowered me in the class room to look at our readings in different aspects and in depth. I use the skills in her class, many other subjects, and even in life. I appreciate her for that.

Jan Klutcharch Posted over a year ago

So proud of you Meghan. Always knew you would make an awesome teacher. You deserve the accolades.

Joyce Potts Posted over a year ago

Ms. Michals is a beautiful person to know. To observe her interactions with our students at Southland College Prep is very heart warming. Her exuberant personality is magnetic to all who comes into contact with her. I feel privileged to experience her positive aura and can most definitely agree that Ms. Megan Michals is a LifeChanger!