Michelle Savich is a teacher at Mt. Slesse middle school. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Michelle Savich is a teacher at Mt. Slesse middle school. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Heroes in Education: Getting out of the classroom to learn

For Mt. Slesse teacher Michelle Savich, learning goes beyond textbooks

The Chilliwack Progress is honoured to profile seven ‘Heroes in Education’ from a long and amazing list of nominees sent to us from the Chilliwack community.

Michelle Savich doesn’t re-invent the wheel with her teaching tactics, but one belief is at the core of everything she does in the classroom.

Students before academics. Community and relationships first.

“You can see how someone walks in the room whether they’re having a good or bad day,” the Mt. Slesse middle school teacher explained. “You can see it in their eyes and body language. So what that means is connecting with them as the people they are and understanding that especially now, with COVID, there are so many things going on at home and at school.

“It’s working with students and letting them know that they come first. School is second, and that’s the way it always should be.”

Savich eschews individual desks for tables with several chairs around them. In non-COVID times she likes to have a couch or three, along with floor mats, cushions and pillows.

“It creates a familiar, fun atmosphere where they can have fun and relax, let their guard down and be themselves,” she said. “The biggest thing is knowing where they are and meeting them where they are, being that safe voice and not scaring them to the point they don’t feel comfortable here.”

Savich is also a huge believer in hands-on learning. Why learn from a textbook when you can learn from real-life experiences?

There’s nothing she loves more than getting her students out of the classroom for some sort of adventure. She recently took her Grade 8s on a trip to the Fraser River to collect data on juvenile sturgeon with the Fraser Valley Angling Guides Association.

When people ask her why she prefers to do it that way, she thinks the question is wrong.

It should be, why not?

“We’re so lucky here in Chilliwack to have what we have around us, and experiences teach you so much more in life than memorizing facts from a textbook,” she explained. “When we go to the river, I see them gaining first-hand awareness that their little impacts can make a big difference. It’s an eye-opening experience.

“Yeah, they could have just read this in a textbook, but we have it right here.”

In the process, Savich believes her students are creating memories that will stick with them, and help to guide them, long after their Grade 8 days are done. The most rewarding moments in her job are when former students come back to visit or she meets them in the community, and they talk about those experiences she provided.

“Kids drop by the school, or they email and say, ‘Hey, I got to do this,’ or they ask if I’ll be a reference for them,” she said. “In terms of your impact as a teacher, those are the things that really say you did something right. Sometimes teachers don’t always get to know their impact, so those are the moments I take to the bank where I can say, ‘This mattered. I was able to do this for a student.’

“Sometimes they don’t even say it, but you get that look and you just know you made a difference. However it happens, it’s magical.”

Go to theprogress.com/community to read about Chilliwack’s other Heroes in Education. All seven features will be published May 1 and 2.

Chilliwack School DistrictEducation

Just Posted

The new emergency department at Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Conference Centre is slated to open June 8. (Screenshot from Province of BC video)
Expanded emergency department slated to open in June at Abbotsford Regional Hospital

Project cost $15 million with an additional $1.25 million donated for equipment

Abbotsford Christian Middle & Secondary School closed until May 25 after 10-day exposure. (File photo)
Entire population of Abbotsford Christian Middle & Secondary recommended for testing after COVID cluster

Several staff and students affected after continuous 10-day exposure; campuses closed until May 25

People take part in the Father’s Day Walk Run for Prostate Cancer Foundation BC in Chilliwack on June 21, 2015. This year’s event will still go ahead, but will not be an organized due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Progress file)
Awareness, funds for prostate cancer still needed in pandemic, says Chilliwack man

People to walk/run their own route for Father’s Day fundraiser event for prostate cancer

Jonathan Prest had to climb way up to the top of a dead red cedar tree to rescue a terrified cat, but he made it up and down successfully. (Facebook photos)
Rosedale tree cutter rescues cat stuck 100 feet up a dead and dried-out cedar

Jonathan Prest put himself in extreme peril to get a terrified cat out of a dangerous situation

RCMP Supt. Bryon Massie, officer in charge UFVRD, and Sgt. Mike Sargent of Agassiz Community Policing holding awards from the recent ‘Recognizing Excellence’ ceremony. (RCMP)
Salute to local officers during National Police Week in the Fraser Valley

Exceptional performances and selfless acts noted during the ‘Recognizing Excellence’ awards

Prince Rupert was one of the first B.C. communities targeted for mass vaccination after a steep rise in infections. Grey area marks community-wide vaccine distribution. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. tracks big drop in COVID-19 infections after vaccination

Prince Rupert, Indigenous communities show improvement

RCMP officers stand near a body covered with a tarp in the parking lot of a shopping complex after one person was killed and two others were injured during a shooting in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Man, 23, killed in latest Lower Mainland shooting had gang ties: IHIT

Jaskeert Kalkat was one of the three people hit by gunfire at Market Crossing mall at around 8:30 p.m.

A COVID-19 patient receives oxygen outside a hospital in Jammu, India, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (AP/Channi Anand)
B.C. donates $500K to Red Cross COVID-19 relief efforts in India

The money will provide oxygen cylinders and ambulances for patients in communities grappling with the virus

Superintendent Aaron Paradis, community services officer with the Surrey RCMP, during a media availability about a recent drug bust in Port Coquitlam. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Police seize 13 million ‘potentially fatal doses’ of pure fentanyl at B.C. drug lab

The evidence was seized at large, illicit drug manufacturing site in Port Coquitlam

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Police are asking the public for help identifying a suspect who allegedly hurled anti-Asian slurs at a family in a Richmond drive-through on May 1. (Benjamin Wong/Screen grab)
Suspect at large in racist tirade at Richmond drive-thru, says RCMP

The Caucasian man was recorded May 1 yelling anti-Asian slurs at a Richmond family in the lineup

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth debates the province’s latest measure to control crime, March 10, 2021. The legislation allows police to impound vehicles used to transport weapons and further restricts sale of vehicle and body armour. (B.C. legislature video)
B.C. seeking ways to ‘name and shame’ gangsters, minister says

Mike Farnworth appeals to family members to talk to police

The Greater Victoria School District continues to face backlash over its wording and approach to Indigenous learners in its 2021-2022 budget talks. (Black Press Media file photo)
School district’s approach to Indigenous learners leaves Victoria teachers ‘disgusted’

Backlash grows over ‘pattern of colonial thinking permeating the leadership’

Italian-Canadian prisoners at the Kananaskis prisoner of war camp in Alberta. (University of Calgary/Contributed)
Italian moved to Okanagan with hope; he ended up being sent to a WWII internment camp

Raymond Lenzi shares his grandfather’s story ahead of Canada’s planned formal apology to Italian-Canadians

Most Read