INFLUENCER OF THE WEEK: Michelle Lucas-Lawhorne, of Whispering Oak Elementary School | West Orange Times & Observer4 min read
Michelle Lucas-Lawhorne is a Voluntary Pre-K teacher at Whispering Oak Elementary School. Her day is divided into a morning and an afternoon program, with two separate groups of children ages 4 and 5. She teaches her students school-readiness skills, such as letters, sounds and numbers; as well as classroom routines and responsibilities that help them transition successfully to kindergarten and elementary school in general. She was named Teacher of the Year in 2017-18 and was named an A+ teacher for Spectrum News 13 this year.
What brought you to your school?
When Whispering Oak Elementary was first built, I lived within the community and thought it would be a great opportunity to work with children in my community. It was also a bonus that it was so close to home and I could attend many after school functions.
What do you love most about your school?
I love the strong sense of community that has always been here. The students, the families and my colleagues here have always been great and promoted a positive atmosphere.
What is your motivation?
My motivation has always been to help students reach their full potential and to enjoy learning. To not only learn the ABC’s and 123’s but to also learn to be good communicators, be helpful to those around them and to spread kindness.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Watching the students grow and flourish. It is so rewarding to see where students start out and how much they grow in a single school year.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
In my spare time I like to play and snuggle with my two dogs, watch Hallmark Christmas movies, take naps, and spend time with my husband and family.
Who was your favorite teacher when you were in school? Why?
It is very difficult for me to pick just one. I had amazing teachers throughout my schooling. I attended many OCPS schools growing up. The one that I think made a such a difference in my life was my fourth-grade teacher, Mr. Police. His classroom was amazing. He not only taught us what we needed to know for school, but he taught us life skills, like being organized.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Since I was a little girl, I always wanted to be a teacher. When I was younger, I had a lot of great teachers who were there for me, supported me, mentored me and inspired me to want to do the same thing one day when I was older. Teaching is truly a calling.
What is your favorite children’s book and why?
My favorite children’s book is “The Gingerbread Girl” because she is strong and determined.
What are your hobbies?
I would say a hobby of mine is creating new games for my students to learn important concepts in a creative way. I also love spending time with my family.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
If I could have one superpower, it would be time travel so that I could go back and spend time with family and friends who are no longer with me.
If you could only listen to three bands or artists for the rest of your life, what would they be and why?
Journey, Garth Brooks and Taylor Swift. I have always loved Journey’s music, especially the song “Don’t Stop Believing.” I have seen Garth Brooks three times in concert, and I love country music in general, but his songs are so fun and energetic and great to sing along to. I love Taylor Swift ever since she showed up to the scene. Her songs are fun. I believe she is very down to earth, as well as a good person.
What was your go-to lunch as an elementary student? Any favorite snacks or special treats you remember?
PBJ! Extra-crunchy Jiff peanut butter and strawberry jam. To this day, I love PBJ sandwiches, and if I do not feel like making them, my husband will make them for me.
What is your favorite holiday and why?
Christmas! I love the music, decorations, the meaning of Christmas — and hanging out with my family has always been important to me. It’s a special time of the year for me.
Who was your best friend when you were in school and why? Are you still in touch?
My best friend was my sister Jennifer. We always encouraged and uplifted each other.
What were your extracurricular activities as a student? Did you win any accolades or honors?
I was a member of the National Honor Society.
How long have you been at your school and with OCPS?
I have worked for OCPS for 22 years, the last 15 at my current school, Whispering Oak Elementary.
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