Meet our Hometown Hero: Michelle Rathmann


An Inspirational Representative of Teachers in our Community

By Victoria Ostrosky

“’Don’t cry because it is over. Smile because it happened.’ 35 years, 6,300 days, two schools, two grade levels and one county. I’ve lost count of how many students. I’ve made wonderful friends along the way. Now it’s time to say… that’s a wrap!”

Michelle Rathmann has been teaching, and loving it, her entire life. “It’s what God designed me to be.” Her teaching vocation began when she was just a young girl. She attended a private kindergarten, and in the evenings, she would teach her friends what she had learned that day. She remembers one time in 5th grade she went home crying because a boy she had been tutoring and teaching to read had learned to read without her. “He didn’t need me anymore.” Teaching has its ups and downs.

After 35 years, Michelle retired from formal teaching, and for her last year she “took time to have fun, to laugh, to smile. I made last year as fun as I could.” Now, she wants to do some traveling, starting with somewhere in the northeast U.S. so she can see the fall colors.

Never a fan of school desks in rows, Michelle placed her students in clusters and groups, encouraging them to be the facilitators of their own learning. “We want them to be successful in life. Our goal is that they be happy and successful at what they choose to be.” Teaching her students to become independent in their thinking and learning has brought her joy. Over her many years as a teacher, she’s taught first grade, second grade and gifted students, loving the opportunity to watch their minds open up while learning at their own pace. “When they have that ‘aha’ moment and the light turns on, you know they’ve got it. Then they can soar.”

Michelle doesn’t like to talk about them, but she has received multiple awards, among them Teacher of the Year twice, and the Emerald Coast Chapter of National League of Junior Cotillion’s Best Mannered Teacher, because of an essay written by one of her former students Stacie Roberson. In Stacie’s own words, she wrote, “I am nominating Mrs. Rathmann for Best Mannered Teacher, because she is a positive role model, excellent teacher and a genuine inspiration to all ages…She had the right balance of discipline and encouragement that leaves her students wanting to learn more.” And Stacie goes on to explain in more detail exactly what sets Michelle apart as a teacher: “She takes a genuine interest in her students’ extracurricular activities. She goes to graduations, baseball games, basketball games, football games, cross country events, swim meets, baptisms and way too many more to name.” I’m certain that Stacie’s words of praise have been echoed by many of Michelle’s students over the years.

For teachers, their students are more than bodies sitting at desks. “For that year of their life, they become one of our children, and some of them never leave. Some of them are part of who we are forever.”

Teachers, in this country, have played an integral part in inspiring and encouraging generations of children in public schools for almost two centuries. As parents, we hand over our most precious possessions, entrusting these dedicated essential employees with a tough duty. A duty to help mold our children into the best they can be.

“The teacher said to the students: ‘Come to the edge.’ They replied: ‘We might fall.’ The teacher again said: ‘Come to the edge.’ And they responded: ‘It’s too high.’ ‘Come to the edge,’ the teacher demanded. And they came, and the teacher pushed them, and they flew.” (author unknown)

Destin Life thanks all the passionate teachers in our community for their selfless commitment, time and responsibility.