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Inspiring Conversations with Michelle Person of Just Like Me Presents

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michelle Person. 

Hi Michelle, so excited to have you on the platform. So, before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
Hi! My name is Michelle Person and I am the owner and founder of Just Like Me Presents, a multimedia production, and development company that promotes literacy, culturally responsive content and teaching materials, and active learning experiences. 

Last year I took a massive leap of faith and stepped away from a 20+ year career in education first as a teacher and then as an elementary school principal to launch the next phase of my career as an author, educational consultant, and content creator so that I could address what I felt was a gaping hole in the traditional education system. The lack of positive culturally diverse content presented to children. 

With Just Like Me Presents my goal is to support culturally reflective learning and teaching that gives students a greater sense of self and helps affirm their identities. In the last 4 years, I have published 6 children’s books that prominently feature characters of color, I have collaborated with over 30 authors to share that mission, and launched a culturally responsive math curriculum Remember Through Rhyme, our revolutionary supplemental math program that teachers’ foundational math skills using engaging stories, and infectious melodies, to create a new way to learn. 

The response to these projects has been overwhelmingly positive and parents and educators alike are hungry for more content like this, because they know that when children cannot see themselves in the content presented to them, or when the images presented are distorted, they learn a powerful lesson about how they are devalued in society. 

With our newest project Meanwhile in Africa, our goal is to purposefully and meticulously create an interactive and engaging program for the 21st-century learner that presents a more well-rounded, representative, and factual view of history that cultivates critical thinking and entrepreneurial skills. Meanwhile in Africa is a supplemental Social Studies curriculum for students in grades K-5. Built on the idea that African American history does not begin with slavery, MIA teaches students about the discoveries, inventions, and achievements that were cultivated in Africa before, during, and after the transatlantic slave trade that brought most Africans to the United States and how that knowledge and culture impact us today. Each unit is focused on presenting more accurate and grade-level appropriate information about history, geography, economics, culture, politics, and entrepreneurship. 

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The response to our programming has been overwhelmingly positive. Families and educators love our content! Our biggest issue had been keeping up with the demand. We are a small independent company. After each unit is written, it must be edited, sent to the graphic design artists for layout and page composition, and the 8-10 worksheets for each unit generated. The average cost to create one unit from beginning to end averages $365. 

Today’s consumer is looking for quality content that is easily accessible, simple to use and has significant depth. We offer interactive and engaging, content, on a simple platform, but due to the cost there is a limit to how many units we can develop at a time which negatively impacts our ability to expand our brand. 

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?
Founded in 2017, Just Like Me Books began as a way to address the lack of diversity in children’s literature. Our work took us into dozens of schools, meeting and coaching hundreds of teachers and parents. It became clear very quickly that the lack of diversity was an issue across all content areas in elementary education. 

Current research indicates that utilizing culturally relevant content and culturally responsive teaching strategies are powerful methods for increasing student achievement and reducing the achievement gap. When used consistently, they can also lead to improved relationships between students and authority figures and positive student behaviors such as cooperation and engagement. 

In 2020 we modified our mission and changed our name to encompass our expanded work efforts. At Just Like Me Presents, our goal is to increase access to culturally reflective teaching materials available to parents, teachers, and community organizations. We do this with our workshops, curriculum, and books. 

Who else deserves credit in your story?
My family has been the biggest supporter on this journey. They are supportive of everything I do and make it possible to keep pushing forward in this work. 

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