Love of community, children keep sisters teaching
at Merrillville for more than three decades
Michele Shalla has been an elementary school educator in Merrillville for 34 years, teaching kindergarten at Miller and first grade at Iddings.
She is currently teaching kindergarten at John Wood Elementary School.
Why after more than three decades is she still working here?
“The children, families and people I have worked with throughout the years are fabulous,” she said.
“I love working with the children who are growing up in the same community that I was born and raised in throughout my childhood,” Mrs. Shalla said.
“I love my job!” she said. “Every day spending time with my adorable kindergarten class is invigorating and keeps me young.”
She is contemplating retirement sometime in 2022-23.
“But we’ll see,” she said. “Maybe longer. My husband and I have made plans to be snowbirds (winters in Florida).We would like to travel and spend time with family.”
Bridget (Hamang) Gates is a Title 1 Reading Specialist at John Wood Elementary and has been at the school for 34 years; a total of 35 years with the Merrillville Community School Corporation.
“I have taught first, second, fifth and sixth,” she said. “This is my 21st year of Title 1 Reading.
“I love the dedication of the staff,” Mrs. Gates said. “I love the students and all they have to share with me. I also love teaching with my sister, Mrs. Shalla, who also teaches at John Wood.”
She said she has stayed so long because, “they say, ‘if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life.’ I truly love what I do and enjoy all the children have to teach me.
“I knew I was going to be a teacher in 2nd grade,” she continued. “I also had teachers who inspired me and told me I was doing the right thing by going into teaching. Two of those teachers taught at MHS: Mr. Jerry Reinhart and Mr. Joe Morrow.”
She hopes to retire in June 2022.
“That will be 36 years with Merrillville and 40 years of teaching,” she said.
Her plans for retirement include relaxing with her hubby, traveling a little and maybe becoming a grandma someday.
She said being born and raised in Merrillville, graduating from MHS (Class of 1978) and the fact that her 92 year-old mother and many of her siblings still live in Merrillville are some of the things that inspire her to keep working here.