As a special education teacher at Cedar Creek Elementary, Michelle Uptegrove has been a catalyst for change and a visionary for great things to happen for each of her students, their families and the community. Her dedication reaches far beyond the walls of her classroom and the school in which she teaches, pouring into the lives and futures of the amazing children she works with. Her career in public education has been her calling and purpose for the past 23 years, and her passion has never wavered. She knew from the time she was a child caring for her sister with Cerebral Palsy that her mission was to make a difference one student at a time.
Mrs. Uptegrove puts heart and passion into her teaching philosophy. “Her ability to make connections with children is effortless,” says her principal, Mrs. Jenifer Opie. “Michelle makes a point to get to know her students outside of the classroom. She is an active volunteer and helps to promote diversity awareness in Girl Scouts and her church. Michelle’s commitment and dedication to her students, our school and the education profession as a whole are to be admired.”
The difference she makes for special need students is felt not only by them but by their parents, as well as other school leaders and district staff. “One particular barrier we overcame as a result of brainstorming with parents, the IEP team, administration, support staff and transportation folks was personally emotional for me. Most students placed in specialized district programs ride a different bus than their siblings and neighborhood friends because they do not attend their homeschool. This past fall, Nolan shared that he didn’t like riding the small bus. Both of his sisters rode the big bus, and he wanted to belong. After I facilitated dialogue with all staff that would be a part of the decision, we placed a variety of accommodations and met success. No longer did this little guy watch his sisters and friends get on the big bus… He proudly stepped up the bus stairs with everyone else.” This is just one example of Michelle’s caring heart and commitment to meeting individual students’ needs.
Selected as Lee’s Summit R-7 Teacher of the Year in April 2016, Mrs. Uptegrove was notified in July that she had been selected as one of 32 Regional Teachers of the Year in the state of Missouri and therefore was eligible to submit her state application to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Michelle learned in early September she was selected as one of the seven finalists for Missouri Teacher of the Year. She will be celebrated at a dinner in late October. Congratulations and many thanks to Michelle Uptegrove for making a difference in R-7!