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BREADCRUMB

GOD 'NUDGES' LAWYER INTO THE CLASSROOM

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November 7, 2023

For information on enrollment and registration at Notre Dame Prep, an independent, Catholic, International Baccalaureate school, please visit the admissions section of our website here.

Middle-school teacher finds joy and a purposeful career in the classroom after early employment in law.

Michele Byrd has been teaching religion and writing at Notre Dame Prep's middle school since September of 2021.


Michele Byrd, a sixth-grade writing and seventh-grade religion teacher at Notre Dame Prep since 2021, began her working career as a lawyer. It was the ideal start to a path of becoming the first woman president of the United States.

Or so she thought when she herself was in middle school.

"The year was 1985, and my middle school yearbook committee instructed us to list our future career goals beneath our eighth-grade school picture," Byrd said. "Mine read 'first woman president.' From that day through my time at Hillsdale College, my focus was law school [and the presidency]."

At Hillsdale, which she attended on a full-ride G.O.A.L. (Great Opportunities for Assistance and Leadership) scholarship, Byrd spent a lot of time working on enlisting student volunteers for various nonprofit organizations, including a shelter for battered women and children. That experience, she said, truly emboldened her passion for the pursuit of justice. And true to form, upon graduation from Wayne State University's law school, she began to practice law with her father’s firm. 

Things began to change for Byrd, though, after she and her husband, Michael, were blessed with two children.

A witness to classroom excitement

"I started volunteering in their school and soon realized that God was nudging my heart to consider a change of career," she recalled. "I began working as an assistant in the first grade and the more time I spent in the classroom, the more joyful and purposeful I felt."

She marveled at being able to witness first-hand the excitement of a young person learning something new or expressing an idea. 

"How wonderful it is to help students feel capable and encouraged," she said. "How fulfilling it is to serve God by loving His children. Scripture reveals that God has plans for each one of us, and I truly believe that I discovered His mission for me: teaching."

After prayerful consideration and many long family conversations, Byrd devoted herself full-time to education. She worked for many years at Holy Family Regional School, and then for four years as a writing and rhetoric teacher at Oakdale Academy. 

Byrd, left, conducts a session on rosaries for middle school students in Notre Dame Prep's Mary Courtyard.


"But divine providence led me to apply to Notre Dame Prep in 2021, and since then, I've have had the great honor and privilege to teach writing and religion at Notre Dame Preparatory School.”

It didn't take long for Byrd, who lives in downtown Rochester, to get used to NDP. That's because her two daughters, Hannah (2016) and Emily (2018), are alumni.

"So I was very familiar with our school's Christian mission, culture of achievement and pursuit of excellence," she said. "But as a teacher, what has been the loveliest surprise for me is the delight of friendship among the middle school staff. The leadership of Brandon Jezdimir and Kelly Patterson is so supportive and positive, and that energy permeates the halls of our school. Our crew truly enjoys each other’s company."

Inclusive and nurturing environment

For middle school principal Jezdimir, he notes without hesitation how important the addition of Byrd to the staff was for the middle school.

"Michele is truly exceptional in so many ways," he said. "Not only does she excel in imparting knowledge to our students everyday, but she also leads our staff in prayer, fostering a sense of unity and purpose within our entire school community. Moreover, she's an invaluable team player, always ready to collaborate with her colleagues and contribute to our shared mission of creating Christian persons, upright citizens and academic scholars. Her unwavering commitment to both her students and her colleagues makes her an inspiring role model in our school."

Byrd says that without a doubt, the most important part of her job is nurturing individual relationships with her students and their families. 

"Certainly, teachers of subjects must have knowledge to profess and wisdom to impart; however, no amount of expertise can make up for a lack of trust between a student and a teacher," she said. "It is critical to me that my students feel seen, heard and valued. And they should feel motivated to meet high expectations and supported in the inevitable mistakes that will happen in any given day."

She adds that she's thankful she started teaching way back when in the first grade because, as it turns out, she said, "whether you’re in middle school, high school or college, everyone has a first grader inside of them who needs tenderness, fun and someone approachable."

Kelly Patterson, vice principal of the middle school, sees clearly how approachable Byrd is for her students.

"Michele recently shared with me some lovely journal entries that were written in her seventh-grade religion class, and the heartfelt entries reflected her inclusive and nurturing environment where students feel comfortable opening up and sharing among other things their personal connections with God."

For information on enrollment and registration at Notre Dame Prep, an independent, Catholic, International Baccalaureate school, please visit the admissions section of our website here.

Comments or questions? mkelly@ndpma.org

Follow Notre Dame on Twitter at @NDPMA.

About Notre Dame Preparatory School 
Notre Dame Preparatory School is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. Notre Dame Preparatory School's upper school enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame Prep's middle and lower schools enroll students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight. All three schools are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the National Association of Independent Schools. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School, visit the school’s home page at www.ndpma.org.