Junior, Secondary Education
From big brother to future coach and science teacher, Michael Reece continues to be a great role model.
After moving with his mother and younger brother from Michigan to Indiana, Michael entered a new community and middle school. It was a big change. He faced the typical challenges of learning his way around, starting middle school and making new friends. Fitting in was complicated by the fact that there were very few African-American families in the community. The first few years were a rough transitional period but eventually, friends and peers made the family feel welcome.
Home was a refuge where his tight-knight family enjoyed spending time together. Michael’s mother taught her sons not to respond to ignorance or bigotry, but to conduct themselves with dignity.
Michael started playing football in 6th grade and fell in love with the sport. The football field was another place where he fit. Having witnessed Michael being targeted, his 7th grade coach intervened on Michael’s behalf. Coach made it clear that he would not tolerate bigotry or racism on his team. Michael played football throughout high school. “My parents divorced when I was five, and my dad wasn’t around often … My coaches seemed like the closest thing I had to a father figure in my life.”
“I chose education because I want students to know that whatever they are going through in life, they don't have to handle it themselves.”
A proud big brother, Michael is quick to acknowledge that his brother was the first student from their high school to play Division 1 football. “Athletics is an extension of your education, and athletics can be the path that allows you to get a higher education.”
Michael set his sights on college and focused on his school work. He excelled in the classroom. “The academics in my school system were awesome. I learned good study habits and came into college well-prepared.” He took finite math and calculus classes through Indiana University while still in high school. As a Purdue alumna, Michael’s mother was thrilled that he wanted to go to college, but not especially happy about his choice to apply to Indiana University.
“I chose education because I want students to know that whatever they are going through in life, they don’t have to handle it themselves … I have experienced tough times in my life, and will always be willing to help my students with whatever is happening in theirs.”
Michael is majoring in Secondary Education – Earth/Space Science with a minor in Geology. He describes his science labs as intense. “You have to put the time and effort in to make sure you understand the material.” He spends 20 – 30 hours outside of class each week studying with his geology classmates. They learn more and earn better grades when they work together. “I need to bounce ideas off of classmates to confirm my understanding … Sometimes someone else sees something I didn’t.”
What does he do in his limited free time? Plays flag football, of course. He also always has time to hang out with old friends from high school and his new friends he’s met since coming to IU.
All of this extra effort is paying off. Michael was recently named one of five students awarded the Indianapolis Alliance of Black Educators (IABSE) scholarship.
He will graduate in December 2015 and embark on his teaching career. He believes the key to being a great teacher is the ability to communicate. “If you don’t know how to communicate with others, you won’t be able to share your knowledge.”
He wants to find a position that offers the right fit where he can teach science, coach football and give back. He knows firsthand how important athletics can be in reaching young men. “I want to help my students reach their full potential. Whether it’s in the classroom or on the gridiron. The young people whose lives I touch will learn more than just what’s needed to pass my class, but skills that will benefit them for the rest of their lives. I want to help make this next generation a better one.”
We look forward to having some of his students become Hoosiers in the future.
He offered these thoughts to others who are considering becoming educators. “Be prepared for anything – have an open mind. Come into it with an open heart willing to help others, and you will be fine. Students won’t always show what is going on in their lives. Listen and learn about what is happening in their world, and make a difference wherever you can.”