DCL Teacher of the Month: Michelle Higginbotham, Sipsey Valley High School Featured

16 Aug 2017
Michelle Higginbotham teaches ninth grade English, Creative Writing and Southern Literature at Sipsey Valley High School. Michelle Higginbotham teaches ninth grade English, Creative Writing and Southern Literature at Sipsey Valley High School. Michelle Higginbotham

Michelle Higginbotham teaches ninth grade English, Creative Writing and Southern Literature at Sipsey Valley High School. Before transferring to Sipsey Valley, she taught at Tuscaloosa County High school for 11 years. Higginbotham began her teaching career in the fall of 1999. Since then, she’s tried to set a goal of making her lessons fun and engaging for her students.

“I also try to make the lessons relatable to not only my students’ lives but also to mine. I am very big on helping my students make connections to everything that we read. For example, when we study Romeo and Juliet, I pull movie titles from popular movies that were created from plays written by Shakespeare,” Higginbotham said. “Another way that I help students to connect to literature is to share personal stories. I share how my grandparents ran away and got married just like Romeo and Juliet did in the play.”

As a ninth grade teacher, Higginbotham said she starts preparing her students for the ACT early. She adds ACT vocabulary words into her students’ daily vocabulary as a way to familiarize them with the terms they’ll be seeing on the test.

“Over the years, my students have declared these words to be $10 words. I tell them constantly that we have to leave the dime and nickel words behind and start increasing our vocabulary,” she said. “I also encourage them to listen for these words on television and during the news. I am excited to say that I even heard a few of our ACT vocabulary words during President Trump’s inauguration speech.”

Higginbotham said she struggles to maintain a balance between her school and home life, but she tries to tackle any leftover school work once everyone else has gone to bed. She said she tries to “turn off” her teacher mode at 3 p.m., but that it sometimes just doesn’t happen.

“I am constantly thinking about my students, or my ‘big kids,’ as my daughter calls them. I pray for my students every morning on the way to school,” she said. “I had a student tell me one time that I cared more about him then his mother did. And the sad thing is, for a lot of the kids I have taught over the years, this statement has probably been very true.”

As her teaching career developed, Higginbotham said she’s made sure to do whatever was necessary to help a student understand her lessons. She’s pulled up a desk beside her students, sat on the floor with them, skipped lunch periods and stayed after school to continue instruction. She's utilized picture books, drawing and coloring to help students.

Higginbotham said she recommends that parents turn off the television and bring homework to the table, so that students can receive any help they might need with their assignments. Any additional distractions can only add to the confusion.

“I tell my parents that my children do their homework at the kitchen table while I cook supper.  This way I can easily help them, no one is distracted by the television, and I know for a fact that they are doing their homework,” she said. “My advice is just to be there and let your kids know that you care and want to be involved. Quiz your children nightly, and help them study for tests.  Ask them questions. And talk to, and partner with, your child’s teacher.”

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Tori Linville

A graduate of The University of Alabama, Tori is a professional in the publishing industry and brings strong writing and editing skills while contributing creative ideas, contemporary concepts, and editorial experience to her varied projects.

Website: www.linkedin.com/in/avlinville

Druid City Living (DCL) is Tuscaloosa, Alabama's premier community newspaper, covering the great people, places and activities of the area.