LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Michelle Potter

Position: Special Education Teacher
School: West Fargo High School
School District: West Fargo Public Schools
City, State: West Fargo, ND

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Michelle Potter was nominated by her principal, Jennifer Fremstad.

Mrs. Potter is an invaluable member of the Special Education department at West Fargo High School. Her primary caseload consists of students who are some of the most challenging in the school. Some are violent, some experience debilitating anxieties, and some lack the skills needed to effectively respond in a traditional classroom setting.

Mrs. Potter has created a classroom that is safe, nonjudgmental, and positive for all students. She not only addresses their academic needs - she also mediates conflicts in safe ways, advocates for students' individual needs, and helps students build the necessary skills to cope with social issues. Mrs. Potter is changing lives in her classroom every day. One example of her great work was demonstrated with a student over the course of three years.

"He came to West Fargo High School and was self-contained the entire day," Fremstad said. "Mrs. Potter set clear expectations for behavior and applied consistent consequences when need. She expected more and with each year, this student thrived.  By the time he graduated, he had a network of friends, could maintain employment, and planned to pursue training opportunities after high school. Someday, he will live independently and productively in our community, and Mrs. Potter believed it the entire time!"

Mrs. Potter is an amazing colleague who is willing to assist her teammates whenever it is needed. She provides important professional insight in meetings, and has suggestions for students and families that are realistic and progressive. She has high expectations for her students, and the same is true for her colleagues. Mrs. Potter wants each of her co-workers to provide the best education and support for students.

"I am so pleased to nominate Michelle Potter for this honor," Fremstad said. "I am proud of her dedication to her students, her commitment to our school, and her desire to do more. She is the inspiration that reminds us all why we are teachers.  There is no doubt that she changes lives because she has changed mine!"

Michelle Potter in the News:
Potter nominated for life changer of the year

Comments (22)

Heather Posted over a year ago

The contributions Mrs. Potter makes to West Fargo Public Schools are innumerable. While we focus a lot on the impact she makes with her students (which is HUGE, and the #1 reason why we all come to work each day), the impact she has had with colleagues and on district process is also great. She is well-read on a variety of topics, and has a knack for finding the exact right platform to advocate for her belief. We are lucky to count her as a member of the WFPS team.

Joe Johnson Posted over a year ago

Amazing does not even begin to describe Shelly and her work in and out of the schools. Shelly is always there the help out, offer sound judgements and encourage all to succeed. Count my blessings to call her a friend and a mentor for our youth!!

Sarah Bernhardt Posted over a year ago

Shelly Mrs. Potter is a teacher who does what she does every day because she truly loves it. When she’s not at the school guiding at risk kids toward brighter futures, she willingly spends her time helping (what else?) a kid with emotional behavioral problems. That child child is mine, and I’m afraid there is no pay beyond hugs and my eternal gratitude. As a parent of a kid who says some pretty nasty things as a result of her disorders, I talked with Shelly once about how she handles it. She smiled and did not hesitate. She said “ I treat them the exact same way no matter what they say.” There was only one thing she could remember ever really getting to her in her years of teaching, when she had to go take a minute to collect yourself. That was the day a student yelled “you don’t care about me!” I know she does not belong to any teaching union or organization that would advertise what she is like. Filling out the paperwork might take her away from cheering for (and yelling at) the Vikings in her living room, and that’s just not something she is willing to give up. Honestly it would take a real miracle to get her to actually promote herself in any context, but I have to tell whoever will listen that Mrs. Potter is the best person I can imagine being in the life of any kid. For those of us who have kids that nobody else “gets,” Mrs. Potter is a safety net, keeping these precious souls, who so often fall through the cracks of our systems and our society, moving toward futures that are brighter because she cares so very much. Mrs. Potter is, in my opinion, the kind of person we should all hope to be like when we grow up, and the quality of educator parents like me pray for our kids to get lucky enough to have in their lives. There is no doubt in my mind that every candidate up for this award is deserving of the honor. I also do not doubt Mrs. Potter would be the first to recommend you give it to them, but for my daughter and my family, she is already our lifechanger of the year.

Amy Posted over a year ago

Congrats Shelly! Your passion for the work you do and relationships you build are so evident in your personal life and professional life! You have a gift and it is awesome to see you publicly recognized for utilizing that gift and creating a wonderful learning environment for many!

Katie S. Posted over a year ago

I am so glad to know you! I have learned so much from you in the years we have known each other. You have helped me figure my own path out. You deserve this honor more than anyone I know! Congrats!

Diana Posted over a year ago

Congratulations! Your students are lucky to have you!

Robbo Posted over a year ago

An amazing person. Knowing her has made my life better

Kerri Posted over a year ago

Shelly is absolutely fantastic and this nomination is well deserved, I can't think of a better person for it.

Marge Freitag Posted over a year ago

We need more people like Shelly working with our youth. She's an amazing woman who deserves this award!

Chris H Posted over a year ago

You are by far one of the most caring, loving and dedicated person I have ever met! What you do for the children of the community is priceless!!

Kim Posted over a year ago

Shelly has a gift for working with young people. She is able to assess educational, emotional, and mental health issues to best meet the needs of the students. Her dedication helps equip students far beyond the classroom.

Ellen Niison Posted over a year ago

Shelly is amazing! She knows how to help the kids have a chance of being independent and successful...that’s a huge deal not only for the kids, but their thankful parents as well! She has my vote!

Kory Posted over a year ago

She makes my wife happy which makes me happy

Mark Berntson Posted over a year ago

Shelly always puts kids' interests first. She goes the extra mile regularly and is humble and dedicated along the way. I really enjoy working with her and seeing what she does for kids!

Annette Posted over a year ago

Way to go Shelly! Well deserved honor as you are one in a million who is there day in and day out!

Holly Posted over a year ago

I learn from you everyday! Way to be awesome

Jay Kocka Posted over a year ago

Congratulations and keep up the great work!

Deb Dondoneau Posted over a year ago


Holly Posted over a year ago

I always learn something from you!

Patti mahar Posted over a year ago

I was Shelly's advisor/professor during her Masters program. She was one of the top students I have ever had. Shelly's writing skills and critical thinking skills were amazing. She was also hard working and very timely with her assignments. Shelly was the kind of student that we strive for at UND. Lastly Shelly has a WONDERFUL sense of humor which I think is important when working in special education. She has all the qualities you need to be an outstanding teacher. She is the BEST.

Tom Posted over a year ago

There is no doubt that Shelly wants the VERY best for her students - that is the kind of gal she is! She will help out anyone that crosses her path in life! Congrats to you Mrs. Potter! WELL DESERVED!

Chris Posted over a year ago

You are AMAZING! I am so proud of you. C