Michele Persin Toll is the embodiment of a working mother in this modern age.
Toll, a professor of English at MCCC, was hired as full-time faculty in Fall 2018 after a year as a temporary replacement.
She had to delay her start, however, due to the birth of her son.
“It’s kind of empowering. You have a legacy, but it also kind of shows you how insignificant you are,” Toll said. “You’re kind of just a vessel for this person to get into the world, and maybe the most important thing you do in your life is just make this baby.”
Toll and her husband, Kevin, have been married since 2015 and have a 2-year-old daughter, Natalie.
“He’s a lawyer and works in Internet Law, so totally different interest areas,” Toll said.
Toll and her husband met online.
“I was living in Israel and I moved back to Michigan,” she said. “I met him not long after that. Then we got married and a year later we had Natalie.”
Recently, the Tolls welcomed a baby boy, Ezra, into their family. He was nine weeks old as of Nov. 9.
“Everything is super cute. Every time I look at him, I’m just amazed,” she said.
“I’m sad thinking about how he’s so cute now and how could he possibly be cuter. And then I remember my daughter; I thought that about her,” Toll said. “Now she’s as cute as ever, so it just makes you think about the passage of time.”
Toll described coming back to work while having a newborn.
“It’s just so exciting, too, and overwhelming and exhausting,” Toll said with a laugh. “It’s like pulling an all-nighter every night.”
As Toll has been working while raising her two children, she is better able to understand the lives of students who also are parents.
“It takes so much extra planning and I really appreciate that now. But of course, their children will be older when they’re in the workforce, and they’ll have more free time then; I’m kind of jealous of that,” she said.
Toll realizes that MCCC has a very high population of student parents.
“I think it’s so challenging and I realize by the time I can sit down and do any grading or work, it’s after bedtime, after 8 pm. And that’s how our students are.”
Toll started her career as a high school teacher right out of college, and continued this for a decade.
“I was just a few years older than my students,” she said. “It didn’t seem weird to me then, but now in retrospect, thinking about how young I was.”
“I got one of those short mom haircuts to try to feel a little bit older,” Toll added.
After this, she made the decision to move to Israel in 2011.
“I moved to Israel and I was teaching ESL [English as a Second Language] there,” Toll said. “I taught at the high school level, and I taught at the college level privately.”
Toll helped many students prepare to take the TOEFUL, a test that allows non-native speakers of English to enroll in English-speaking universities.
Toll thought that she would continue teaching high school. However, when she moved back to Michigan in 2013, a new opportunity arose.
“I had a contact at Henry Ford College in Dearborn teaching ESL, so I did that,” she said. “The qualification that I needed was a Master’s Degree in English and I had that. So I started teaching students who were just learning English for the first time.”
Toll did not have a graduate certificate in ESL yet, but was able to teach off of her experiences. When she was in Israel, she was a new immigrant learning Hebrew, and stood out among the people living there.
Toll taught greetings and pronouns, in addition to bringing in props to help students. Toll also helped these students with their everyday lives, including helping one navigate the court system after receiving a traffic ticket.
“That was some of the most fun that I’ve ever had with students,” she said.
She then began teaching as an adjunct in 2014 at MCCC and is happy to now be full-time faculty. She teaches Basic Reading Skills, Intro to Humanities, English Comp 1 online, and College Skills.
“The full-time opening here presented itself and I was just so lucky and blessed enough to be here at the right time for that position,” she said. “I’m very excited to do what I’ve been doing, but to be a part of the decision making, too.
“The teaching is very similar to being an adjunct, but being involved in planning is really fun, too.”
Through working at schools and during her time at MCCC, Toll has learned that she doesn’t have to be a teacher all by herself. She has realized that she can’t do it all on her own and she doesn’t have to work in isolation.
“I love working with my colleagues here,” she said. “Every time I talk to them about what they’re doing in their classroom, I’m more and more excited.”
When she is not working or taking care of her children, Toll enjoys sewing quilts and running, despite an injury that makes running difficult. She also enjoys listening to audiobooks during her hour commute to school.
“I think that the world should know that that does count as reading,” she said. “Being a new mom, I very seldom have time to do what I love, which is lay in bed and read a book. I really recommend audiobooks.”
Additionally, Toll has become interested in podcasts, especially Malcolm Gladwell’s “Revisionist History.” In this podcast, Gladwell reinterprets events from the past and how they change one’s understanding of the world.
“He’s just brilliant, and I just love him. It’s a new forum for writing; some of it is spontaneous, but some of it is obviously a script,” she said. “He makes leaps where you would never see associations, and I love that about him.”
Toll has also been lucky enough to travel. Her and her husband went to the Caribbean on their honeymoon, and she found many opportunities to explore the world while living in Israel.
“I’ve been to some different countries in Europe. When you live in Israel, Europe is only a couple-hour flight. It’s a little bit easier to get there.”
Toll is also very active in the college community. She is on the One Book, One Community Committee and the Instructional Technology committee. She has already read next year’s One Book novel, “News of the World,” by Paulette Jiles.
“I’m very excited for all of those activities that are coming up,” Toll says.
She also jokes that she will be there with an infant in her arms.
Many students at MCCC have also enjoyed interacting with Toll.
“She’s very pleasant. She always has a smile on her face,” Dawn Witmer said. “As a mother of two, she’s doing a good job. She’s always right on top of things.”
Toll also led activities for the One Book, One Community event last year. Denise Witmer enjoyed the group led by Toll and thought she did well.
“I liked her. I wanted to have her as a professor.”
Toll talked about her favorite part of working at MCCC: the students.
“I get to meet great students and help them achieve their goals. It’s really cool and I’m just so happy to be a part of their path,” she said.