Jitters Not Just For Students, If It’s Teacher’s First Day Ex-Marketing Director Slept Little Recently

Ever since realizing she was too small to be a Dallas Cowboys quarterback, Michelle Faucher-Sharples has thought about being a teacher.

She kicked off her career on Tuesday.

“I’ve been getting about two hours of sleep each night,” she said. “I want to be the best teacher for these kids that I can be.”

Mrs. Sharples, as she’s known at Bryan Elementary, is among the relatively few brand-new teachers who are on duty as kids throughout the region begin the school year.

She comes equipped with a mission statement (“My students will benefit from facing and overcoming challenges …”) and a master’s degree from Whitworth College.

Her only classroom experience was as a student-teacher last year at Spokane’s Hamblen Elementary.

“They called her one of the best student-teachers to come out of Whitworth in a good number of years,” said Bryan principal John House, who hired her in May.

Eighty people applied for the job at Bryan. House was looking for a young teacher to balance the many veterans on his staff. He knew Faucher-Sharples from the days when she was a student and he was assistant principal at Canfield Junior High.

But it was her enthusiasm that convinced the principal and a team of teachers to pick Faucher-Sharples.

“She just steamrolled her way through the interview,” House said.

Faucher-Sharples, who turns 26 this month, did not take a straight route to teaching.

She started college as an education major, but switched to broadcast journalism. After graduating from the University of Idaho, she was marketing director at Silverwood Theme Park.

The call of the classroom hadn’t been silenced, though. Salary wasn’t a big issue.

“I knew going into teaching that it’s not a high-paying job,” she said.

Faucher-Sharples wrote her master’s thesis on the affects of multicultural literature on fourth-graders’ writing.

“I love the intermediate elementary age,” she said. “They’re able to grasp concepts, and they’re learning how to express themselves in creative ways.”

She didn’t learn until late last week that she would teach a combined class of 21 third- and fourth-graders. She spent the summer preparing curriculum so she’d be ready to teach third, fourth or fifth grades.

Like other teachers, she wasn’t paid for that time, nor for most of the hours spent getting her classroom ready. Her husband pitched in, building bulletin boards.

On Tuesday afternoon, Faucher-Sharples was dressed in a forest-green jumper and Birkenstock sandals. She sat with her students in a circle on the floor.

She asked them to suggest a name and contributors for a classroom art gallery. Then she had them invent rhythmic clapping routines, and chant their names and favorite foods.

“My name is Jessica! And I like ice cream!”

The children’s personalities became as obvious as their new T-shirts and back-to-school dresses. Some looked down or covered their faces with giggling shyness. Others thrust both hands in the air to get the teacher’s attention.

The teacher’s method for getting attention was to hold five fingers in the air. “Give me five,” she’d say, and all eyes would turn her way.

The day’s objectives were on the chalkboard: “Get to know one another, establish a class plan, practice measuring and spelling skills.”

Third-grader Alesha Schlappy was getting to know her teacher, and liked what she saw so far.

“She’s really nice.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Photos (1 Color)

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