Michelle’s Hometown Ties

This is a little more personal of a post – hope you all don’t mind!

For those of you who have only known my in my “adult” years let me give you a little background on me that is relevant to this story… I grew up in Hobart, Indiana. (For all of you who are confused because I say I am from Chicago let me explain – Hobart is technically a Chicago suburb even though it’s in a different state. And I know no one knows where Hobart is so Chicago is the answer that makes sense when someone asks where I am from.) Hobart is fairly small in the scheme of things (less than 30,000 people) and definitely not a place one would call affluent but it was a great place to grow up. I went to Kindergarten at Foreman Elementary school but then for grades 1-5 they then switched our neighborhood to attend George Earle. I had some REALLY great teachers there… but I’ll get to that more in a moment!

While I was in Australia for Mission Discovery in January the principal of the elementary school called Joan Martin asked me if I would be willing to come and talk to the students the next time I was in town. I said sure! There are some random interesting things with that including that Joan Martin is the newest school and didn’t open until I was in high school (but I remember going into their cafeteria/gymnasium for high school cheer practice when we needed the space) and it was built to replace (in part) Foreman Elementary where I had gone to kindergarten. (It is even in the space place.) Most interesting perhaps is the principal of Joan Martin is a former classmate of mine who also cheered with me in High School – I knew her as Kacey Juzwicki but she is now Kacey Allen. 

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In emails between myself, Kacey and the 5th grade teacher Mrs. Beth York we were discussing the plans for the day… it took several emails for a realization to kick in for me at which point I responded “Mrs. York… Is this Miss Jones?” Lo and behold Mrs. York who is teaching 5th grade at Joan Martin Elementary is none other than Miss Jones who taught me 5th grade at George Earle Elementary!!! (George Earle has since been turned into a school for only kindergarten students and it’s all day kindergarten. My mom probably would have loved if I’d had that!!) How neat that I was going to get see my former teacher. I also learned that Mrs. Appleton who had been my 4th grade teacher was teaching 4th grade at Joan Martin! 

I arrived at the school in the morning and have to admit it definitely felt odd to be going back to a Hobart elementary school to talk to students! But I was also excited at the opportunity. I hoped I could reach at least 1 kiddo and who knows maybe show them how many exciting possibilities are out there. I was thrilled to see Miss Jones (okay I know she’s Mrs. York but I just can’t help but call her Miss Jones!) and honestly she no kidding didn’t look like she had changed at all!! I spoke with the 5th grade students for nearly an hour and a half and I think it went pretty well. I had struggled with how to “illustrate” (if you will) that I was no different from any of them. I was just an ordinary kid from Hobart who decided to work my tail off and chase the dream of working at NASA. I know kids can frequently look at you like “yeah right” when you talk about how you are really the same as them. So I figured that a picture could be worth a thousand words and I pulled out some old pictures from my life in Hobart and scanned them in. I even found class pictures from Miss Jones and Mrs. Appleton’s class. Then I showed them some pictures of all the cool things I have gotten to do in both school (like flying on the Vomit Comet in College) and at work (working with all my crews, travel to amazing places etc.) and I think it was fairly effective  🙂

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I had to use this picture as well because both Kacey and I are in it – Freshman Year of High School

Then in the afternoon I talked to the entire school for a shorter period of time. But before heading to the gymnasium I got a huge treat- Mrs. Carnahan who I had for some subjects in 1st grade showed up just because she heard I was going to be there! I felt so special that she came in to see me! Mrs. C hadn’t changed at all either!!!

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Mrs. Carnahan and Me – When the heck did I grow?!

As usual I got some fantastic questions from the students. I love to get their minds working!

 It was really a treat to be able to give something back to where I grew up and to get to see some of my teachers who were so fantastic to me and always supported my dreams! I told the kids I am literally living my dreams and I feel so incredibly fortunate to be able to do so! I look forward to being able to go back to Hobart (and surrounding areas) to help excite more kids from where I am from about science and math and the possibilities that are out there if they are willing to work hard! And not just to Hobart – but to everywhere in the world!!!

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Mrs. York (Miss Jones), Mrs. Appleton, Me, Mrs. Carnahan – What AMAZING teachers I had!!

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