Teacher Feature Blog Series – Michelle Courtney


We all remember a teacher who inspired us. An individual who has always believed in us, supported us through challenges, sparked our passion for a topic, or inspired us to keep going when we were discouraged. For me, I was fortunate enough to have many teachers who shaped my academic career and passion for education. In addition to being teachers, these individuals served as mentors, nurses, counselors, parents, friends, and ultimately, role models.

Teacher Feature, a new blog series by The School Planner Company, will highlight educators from all over the country. These teachers and education entrepreneurs make an impact in and outside of the classroom sharing valuable knowledge with students and fellow teachers through influential sites and blogs. We are excited to launch the Teacher Feature blog series and bring awareness to how much teachers do each day, the relationships they foster with their students, and ultimately, how we as a community can best support them. Look forward to new teacher features regularly!

If you know an amazing educator who you think we should feature, please let us know by emailing bmctigue@mimeo.com.

Michelle Courtney, The Smarticles Series

Why did you decide to become a teacher?

I decided to become a teacher because my mom was a teacher and I wanted a job where I could be creative. Being an introvert, I needed a job that valued my creativity and passion to inspire creativity within my students. As an educational classroom decor ambassador, I try to leave a little sparkle wherever I go. My classroom is a rainbow of possibilities, complete with a spinning disco ball in the center of the room. My students always remember my bright and colorful outfits as well as the themed decor for every unit that I teach.

Tell us one of your most memorable moments of your teaching career?

One of my most memorable moments in my teaching career was when I adopted one of my former first grade students. She told me that she was my Matilda and that I was her Ms. Honey. She is now 21 and we are still a part of each other’s lives. 

What is one fun way you motivate your students?

I motivate my students by allowing them to choose upcoming units based upon their interests. As a reward for their hard work, we often have weekly dance parties where I introduce them to different genres of music, including disco since I have a disco ball in my classroom. To get my students to write in their planners regularly, I give them stickers and colorful pens to use in their planners. I also allow them to decorate and assemble their planners at the beginning of the school year. 

Along with my many roles, I have written a series of children’s resource books called The Smarticles Series, which includes books about social and emotional topics such as autism, dyslexia, growth mindset, and more. I tell my students that ‘smarticles’ are smart spectacles that allow you to see things from a new perspective. I always have several pairs of ‘smarticles’ (funky glasses) around my classroom for my students to be able to empathize with others and value each other’s differences.  

Teachers also learn so much from their students! What is something special one of your students taught you?

Many of my students throughout the past 16 years have taught me more than I have taught them. One time a student who couldn’t afford to get me a Christmas present gave me a JCPenney catalog. He decorated the catalog and circled all the things he would buy me if he could afford them. He also scratched out the lingerie section to save embarrassment. He taught me the value of non-material things and that being a small part of someone’s life was the best gift of all. 

What is the value of students writing by hand versus digital only?

When I work with my students on their organizational skills, I show them my planner setup as an example. I believe that writing down their own goals and commitments is more valuable than a digital format. It puts their plan into writing and then into reality. I compare this method to printing out pictures and arranging them into a scrapbook, rather than only keeping pictures digital. I ask them in 50 years from now, would they rather have printed pictures or pictures left online? My students then see the value of print over digital options. 

If you could design your ideal teacher planner, what three things would you be sure it includes?

If I were to design my ideal teacher planner, I would have a teacher sticker companion pack. I would also need to have a grade book checklist, and dot-grid or graph paper to chart data and draw seating charts. Extra notebook paper would be a must for meeting notes and parent/teacher communication logs. 

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to a new teacher?

If I were to give one piece of advice to a new teacher, it would be, “Don’t forget to always wear your smarticles!” Don’t be afraid to see things from a different perspective. Doing this will allow you to leave a little sparkle wherever you go!