Michelle Lutz

Michelle Lutz



Michelle Lutz, preschool teacher at The Hills School

Nominated by Breanna Chanson 

Ms. Michelle is so passionate about play-based and child-led education that she went on a pilgrimage in Italy to learn more about it. So, unlike me in the beginning, she doesn’t see a room full of little children, but rather a classroom full of students who have their own ways of communicating and just need someone who speaks their language. I’ve become a student of hers as well, and it’s changed my relationship with my daughter. Ms. Michelle fosters an atmosphere of curiosity, critical thinking, and a long-term love of learning that has changed our family forever. 

How long have you been teaching at The Hills School?

Some of my training was in Reggio Emilia, Italy, home to a beautiful philosophy of learning. The Hills School is a Reggio Emilia-inspired school so when the opportunity arose three years ago, I happily joined this community.

Have you taught anywhere else? 

I’ve been a preschool teacher for nearly 20 years at Valley schools. Even when several schools weren’t Reggio-inspired, my classrooms reflected the philosophy.

 What is your favorite part of being a teacher?

The “spark”. When children understand something new, it creates a rush of excitement to learn more. That feeds a teacher’s soul. I set to work to provide provocations that scaffold new curiosities. I ask questions and really listen to their answers. 

Why did you want to become a teacher?

When my children were young, I struggled to find a good preschool. My mother encouraged me to become a teacher, to be the change I wanted to see. I started in Michigan as a paraprofessional and continued my college education in Arizona. 

How do you connect your lessons to the real world?

We make connections in everything we do. We avoid rote learning because children often can’t understand the “why” of what they are learning. Children need to construct knowledge, not passively receive it. They learn physics by catapulting a pumpkin (yes, it was marvelous) or using playground pulleys. Our emergent curriculum starts with the interests of the child, yet we also cover the standards important for kindergarten. It’s a beautiful thing when children know that their curiosities are important and their voices are heard!

What are some of your unique techniques you use for teaching?

Children can safely do big things. We paint with electric drills, use sewing machines to make pillows in favorite shapes (even dinosaurs and firetrucks). In our woodshop, children use hammers and nails to make their names out of wood or a triple-layer doll bunk bed. My guidance is always there, they feel it. Our classroom dialogue is rich. I want to hear what they have to say. 

What is your teaching philosophy?

I like the theories of Vygotsky and Piaget regarding how children must construct knowledge. Additionally, everything I do is under a social-emotional umbrella to help children be happy and healthy. “Nothing Without Joy” is a Reggio-inspired goal that I share. 

When did you move to Arizona?

Nearly 20 years ago my husband and I came to Phoenix in two cars with two young children, two dogs, one tadpole, and a babysitter. It took our menagerie six days to get to Phoenix from my home state of Michigan. 

What is your favorite part of the Arcadia area?

The Hills School children and the peaceful Shepherd of the Hills campus. Also my former students that have grown; I never forget them. 

Winning teachers receive an award certificate and special prizes. Thank you to our sponsors: Postino Arcadia, The Joffe Group and The Phoenician Spa.

All winners are invited to an end-of- school year celebratory luncheon. Nominate a teacher you love at arcadianews.com.