Five Questions: New school board member looks to take on challenges in education

Brandon Paykamian • Dec 2, 2018 at 11:41 PM

As a retired schoolteacher and a local activist, Michelle Treece has often emphasized the importance of equity and diversity within the local school system before throwing her hat in the ring during November’s Johnson City Board of Education election.  

Shortly before Treece, an ETSU alumna and Morristown native, was set to take her oath of office on Dec. 3, she emailed the Johnson City Press to tell readers a bit more about herself, her hobbies, opinions on local education and what led her to take a seat on the Board of Education. 

She is one of three new faces on the board, joining Paula Treece and Robert Williams. 

Michelle Treece Briefly:

Favorite restaurant in Johnson City: Wok and Hibachi. 

Favorite book(s) and author(s): “Anything by Octavia Butler.” 

Hobbies: “I love playing the djembe and bass guitar, and I love listening to live music.

Pet peeves: “People who make nasty body sounds in public.” 

Favorite figure in history: Madam C.J. Walker, “the first female self-made millionaire who just happened to be black!” 

What first got you interested in working as an educator and now a board member? 

I am happy to say that I had some fantastic teachers, especially in college. One of my professors, Karen Renzaglia, is the main one who exemplified the passion for teaching. After retiring, I realized I would forever be an educator in some way. This last year, I become actively involved in my community and felt a desire to run for a seat on our local school board. After 25 years of teaching, I felt it is time to have a teacher on the school board. I am very thankful and appreciative of the chance to serve on our board.

What changes, if any, do you think need to take place in local education? 

We have very talented teachers in our system. I would like for our teachers to not be tied to a testing schedule. I wish teachers could have the time to teach as creative as they would like without worrying about “being ready for the test.” There are so many wonderful concepts that teachers must delete or omit just because “we don’t have time to do that!” Classes that are not state tested have some freedom and are probably more student-driven! Wouldn’t it be great to base a lesson on the news from the local newspaper?

What do you believe are some of the biggest challenges facing schools across the country today and why?

I think one of the biggest challenges facing schools is the deterioration of families within our communities. Each day, children come to their schools carrying an extra backpack of family issues. We must continue to provide all support possible — from mental health to physical hygiene — for these children and their families. Addressing this problem should bring many other problems — school shootings, unexcused absenteeism, disrespect and bullying of others — under control.

Another problem is school shootings. An answer begins with sensible gun laws — not to take away guns but to allow a means to responsible gun use.

What is your opinion on state testing and past problems with the TNReady assessment?

I think state testing and all the unspoken requirements to prepare for them has taken a toll on teachers and students alike. Everyone involved works incredibly hard to meet several deadlines, only to learn that the posted date to receive your results is hardly ever met by the state. My personal belief as a retired teacher — not a new school board member — would be to slow down on state testing! Science Hill High School students did great in colleges before state testing, and I am sure they will be fine with less state testing. 

What do you think makes our district unique, both in terms of positive attributes and unique challenges? 

I think what makes our district unique is how it is a connecting point between the differences. It is where the “city meets the country,” where the “mountains meet the lakes,” where “the laid-back meets the adventurer,” where “the road bike meets the mountain bike,” “the fiddle meets the violin” — this list could go on and on! There are so many ways and places that these differences can merge. It is a great place to experience these junctures. The challenge? How can we bring actual people who are just as diverse to meet and connect in these experiences?