Michelle was born into a military family and moved around a lot as a kid, attending public schools in Iowa, California, and Florida. Her father enlisted in the Air Force after high school and her mother sold classified ads for local newspapers. No one in her family had ever gone to college and she didn’t expect to go either. It was her teachers and classmates who inspired her and opened the door to a new possibility. She chose to study at Florida State University, where she developed an interest in social inequality and discrimination. It was this interest that moved her to pursue a PhD in African American Studies at Temple University.
At Temple, she began her education activism and organized her fellow teaching assistants into a union with the American Federation of Teachers.
While pursuing her PhD, she served as a resident director in a boarding school program for young students of color. Through the “A Better Chance” (ABC) program, Michelle lived with eight high school girls and helped them navigate their academic and social lives, experiencing first-hand the power of opportunity and education to change a child’s life.
Inspired by her experience and motivated by the desire to serve, Michelle went on to become the executive director for a non-profit called Thresholds, an education program operating in a county jail, a juvenile detention center and a state prison. She taught life skills to incarcerated individuals, many of whom had dropped out of school. By teaching conflict resolution and decision making, she helped them rebuild their lives and reduce the likelihood of returning to jail upon release.
After earning her PhD, her passion for teaching prompted her to become a community college professor at Borough Manhattan Community College in New York. There, she was a member of the American Federation of Teachers and taught students who had struggled through high school or could not afford a four-year college. Many were young people working hard to transform their lives or adults looking for a second chance.
She teaches as an adjunct professor at Northern Virginia Community College and served as an officer on the Alexandria PTA Council and Mount Vernon Community School PTA. Here she has found parents who share her passion and vision, and with them has lobbied the Virginia state legislature about the overuse and misuse of standardized testing, fought for the full funding of our schools, and worked with community partners to rebuild playgrounds and stand in support of inclusive schools and neighborhoods.
Michelle has lived in Alexandria for twelve years with her husband and three children, who are all enrolled in Alexandria Public Schools.