Mover & Shaker of the Month: Michelle Kress

Team captain for Emma’s Army 

By Paula Green 

        McIntyre Elementary second-grade teacher Michelle Kress made a commitment last year to help 13-year-old cancer patient Emma Mathieu. Emma, who is a seventh-grade student at Eden Christian Academy, was diagnosed last June with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. 

        Kress has close ties with this family since Emma’s mother Amy is the principal at McIntyre Elementary, which is part of the North Hills School District. Kress wanted to show her support and help Emma and her family. She began her crusade by organizing a districtwide “Denim Day.”  

      “Each staff member in our building makes a denim day donation, which allows us to wear jeans on Fridays. We collected $500 from our denim day donations. We formed a team online and shared our fundraising efforts with family and friends. We also held a districtwide denim day, asking staff members to make a minimum $5 donation. We raised about $1500. We formed a team of over 80 people (family, friends, staff members, staff families, retired staff). When our final collections had been completed, we had raised over $5,000, placing our team as the eighth-top fundraising team at the Light the Night Walk for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society,” Kress said. 

       Kress also organized a walk-a-thon team. “Emma’s Army was formed when our entire staff wanted to find a way to show our love and support for Amy, Emma and the Mathieu family during the most difficult time of their lives. Amy is an amazing principal, leader and friend that supports us unconditionally and encourages us fully. As a staff, we talked about ways that we could encourage the family, to bring light and love to their lives. We knew that we could donate building funds to the Leukemia and Lymphoma society in support of Emma. We also knew that LLS was holding the Light the Night Walk, and we wanted to form a team to walk in support of the family. We asked Amy and Emma to name our team and Emma’s Army was born. We raised funds from school and district staff, families and friends and the Mathieu family. We weren’t sure that Emma would be able to walk with us, but we knew that our “army” would bring joy to her whether she was with us or there in spirit. We found out that days before the walk was to take place that Emma was clear of cancer and would be joining us as the walk as a true survivor. The joy and tears that we felt at that news during T-shirt distribution was amazing. It was such a momentous occasion for us to celebrate with the family, show our love and support, and truly bring light and love to their lives,” Kress added. 

        Kress has been teaching in the North Hills School District for the past ten years, seven of those years at McIntyre. Prior to that, she was a librarian and gifted education specialist at Highcliff and a first-grade teacher at Ross. Before coming to NHSD, Kress was an educational outreach specialist for the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh working with their BLAST (Bringing Libraries and Schools Together) program for two years. BLAST focused on bringing engaging literacy lessons to students in the Pittsburgh Public School District and focused an interactive read-aloud component to students in third grade. 

       She resides in West View with her husband, Fred, and two daughters Shelby, three, and Scarlett, eight months.