by Dr. Catherine Sundt (Class of 1996)
Michele Castleman attended Stepping Stones from 1987-1996, all the way from Children’s House to 6th grade. While there, Michele loved reading, writing, and drama – her cackle as the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz is still famous.
She cherishes her experiences with acting in the spring musicals, the read-alouds her SSMS teachers conducted, and the author visits by the late Brian Jacques. These experiences fostered strong bonds within her class. Even 20 years later, Michele maintains friendships with fellow students from that period.
After Stepping Stones, Michele entered the Northview school system, where she became involved in swimming, Students Against Destructive Decisions (S.A.D.D.), and Spanish club. She took many AP classes during high school and earned college credits at GRCC.
After graduation, she attended Michigan State University, and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in English in three years. She received her Master’s in Fine Arts in Young Adult and Children’s Writing from Chatham University in Pittsburgh, PA, and then earned her Ph.D. from the Ohio State University at the age of 27. Her doctoral degree is in Teaching and Learning, with a focus on Children’s and Young Adult Literature.
Michele is currently an Assistant Professor of Education at Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio. She teaches courses on children’s and young adult literature, English and diversity education, and writing. She notes:
My passion is young adult and children's literature. I love discussing books with my students. My dissertation was focused on examining the way ancient myths were presented and used in middle grade and young adult books set in the present day; like the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. Now I am researching violence in young adult literature. (http://www.heidelberg.edu/academiclife/depts/ed/faculty/castleman)
Her work on violence in young adult literature was published in the Spring 2013 issue of ALAN Review.
As an educator, Michele understands the value of student-directed learning, as well as the level of inquiry the Montessori Method fosters. She encourages Stepping Stones’ current students to cherish the friendships they make at SSMS, read as much as they can, and to enjoy the Montessori experience.
Michele enjoys running, acting in the community theater, wrangling her cats (Frankie and Freddie), and writing. Her blog, The Hungry Readers (http://thehungryreaders.blogspot.com/) has reviews on books for kids children and adolescents, including guest posts from her friend, East Grand Rapids youth librarian Monica Walen.