Macomb County Middle School Teacher of the Year Michelle Bissell was credited by administrators for her hands-on and unorthodox approaches to education.

Macomb County Middle School Teacher of the Year Michelle Bissell was credited by administrators for her hands-on and unorthodox approaches to education.

Photos provided by Joe Genest

Eastland teacher named Macomb Middle School Teacher of the Year

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published June 1, 2020




ROSEVILLE — Roseville Community Schools are celebrating Eastland Middle School teacher Michelle Bissell after she was named the Macomb County Outstanding Middle School Teacher of the Year.

A seventh grade math teacher, Bissell was nominated by Eastland Principal Monica Gabriel due to Bissell’s passion and unorthodox approach to education.

“She is so passionate and so dedicated to what she does,” said Gabriel. “She works with each student and works very hard to work with them to really get them to analyze the problem-solving process and work through a problem with confidence.”

Bissell was shocked at the honor but said she is happy to know she has made a difference.

“I was very pleasantly surprised when my principal nominated me for Roseville Teacher of the Year,” she remarked. “All of (the district selectees) are entered into nomination for the county, so five weeks later the superintendent called and said I was named Macomb County Teacher of the Year.”

She explained that she tries to use unusual approaches to engage students in their lessons and work with them on a personal level.

“I try to connect with the students; that’s the winning ticket,” Bissell said. “You want to connect with them and manage your classroom. You want to make learning exciting and keep a sense of humor. I try to change the mindset in education from ‘what are my grades’ to having the kids explain to me what they’ve learned. It’s been a tough journey there because so many people are set in that other mindset, but I’m seeing some success there.”

Gabriel said she has seen the positive results of Bissell’s approach.

“Students who have had her as a teacher learn to work as a team,” said the principal. “It’s a very collaborative classroom. She’s created an environment to figure things out as a class. If she is working with one student, she’s made sure that other students can work with each other to figure things out.”

Bissell previously served as an administrator in the Hazel Park School District for 16 years. When she came to Roseville, she wished to go back into the classroom — something that Gabriel said shows what kind of educator she is.

“This is my first year as principal at Eastland,” explained Gabriel. “She used to be an administrator, and I needed to name someone to take charge if I were out of the building, and I asked her, and she politely declined because she said she just wanted to be the best math teacher she could be. Her goal is to teach and work with students. I was very impressed with that.”

The COVID-19 quarantine has not slowed down Bissell’s passion. She still worked remotely with her class to ensure their education could continue from home.

“Four days a week we have live conferences,” said Bissell. “These are me holding an online class where the kids all join me so we’re all together. I present either a live format or a video or PowerPoint format and present a lesson. I break the kids into groups and put them in their own virtual rooms where they can even compete with the others. Everything I do in a classroom, I can do online so long as the students show up (to the virtual classes).”

Gabriel said that she cannot speak highly enough about Bissell.

“Her reach goes beyond the classroom,” Gabriel said. “As a friend and colleague, she’s so positive and goes above and beyond. She volunteers to work with parents and students, helps other staff, and volunteers to help with events like school dances. She adds to the climate and culture we have in the building.”

Bissell was just as complimentary about Gabriel and her fellow Eastland staff members.

“I’m extremely grateful for the great leaders I’m surrounded by,” she remarked. “They are very supportive of my nontraditional ways, and they give me the freedom to do what I do.”

Bissell said that the key to being a good teacher is loving what you do. 

“I’ve worked with kids my entire life. I even own an ice cream parlor. I try to create leaders, and I think that’s what makes me successful,” she said. “Put the kids first, work really hard and if you enjoy what you do, it won’t feel like work.”