Au revoir: A beloved educator is leaving NHS, but she’s not done teaching


With her retirement approaching, French teacher Michelle Tharp-Taylor is finding a new way to keep busy. Tharp-Taylor hopes to pursue physical training after leaving NHS.

Lance Engelman and Caitlin Hall

With her retirement quickly approaching as the school year draws to a close, Michelle Tharp-Taylor may be saying “goodbye” to NHS this year,but is not done teaching. Memories of her quirky teaching style will remain with her students, as her students hope she has a great retirement.

“I’m so upset she is retiring  because she is such a great teacher and has made the class so fun,” sophomore Abigail Wigger said.

After working at NHS for more than two decades, Tharp-Tayor’s students will be sad to see Tharp-Taylor go, although she has big plans for the future. Tharp-Taylor has an interest in weight lifting and being a personal trainer. She originally began this hobby for her grandchildren. 

“Before I started strength training, I picked up a sandbox for my granddaughter, and it hurt my shoulder. I couldn’t do it, and it was so heavy. I needed to get stronger, so I started doing weights and lifting.” Tharp-Taylor said.

After six months, Tharp-Taylor found encouragement in the progress she had made.

“After six months my granddaughter asked me, ‘Grandma, can you bring the sandbox out?’” Tharp-Taylor said. “I brought it out, set it up, and the sandbox wasn’t nearly as heavy as it used to be.”

Not only has her new workout routine been beneficial for her when it comes to doing what she enjoys and wants to with her grandkids, but also for overall health.

“Working out just makes you feel so good,”Tharp-Taylor said.

Weight training not only pushed Tharp-Taylor physically, it led her to a new, non-teaching role as a personal trainer. Tharp-Taylor worked hard and continued to learn more so she could pursue her new goal.

“I just wanted to see if I could pass the test [to be a certified personal trainer]. It would be good for my brain, plus I could learn more information,” Tharp-Taylor said.

Tharp-Taylor says she utilizes the teaching and social skills she learned as a high school educator to help her also be the best personal trainer she can be.

“I could take what I love with teaching and getting to interact with people and transfer that into the health industry,” Tharp-Taylor said.

Tharp-Taylor has been a French teacher at Noblesville for the past 22 years. Sophomore Olivia Willard is in her second year of  studying with Tharp-Taylor and can still recall a lesson on what some would believe to be a boring topic.

“I vividly remember the day that we began learning about what words meant ‘behind,’ ‘forward,’ ‘next to,’ and she pulled out this duck that looked like the Mona Lisa and moved it all over the classroom asking if Mona was on top of or behind something,” Willard said.

According to Tharp-Taylor,her love for teaching has been a part of her life since she was very young. Educating others is her passion, and she has never given up on it since for as long as she can remember.

“I always wanted to be a teacher. When I was young, I would line my dolls up and pretend to be their teacher,” Tharp-Taylor said.

Tharp-Taylor has spent over 40 years as a teacher, French is not the only thing she has taught, and she has worked with kids of many different ages. 

“I used to teach at Waldron High School. Then I took a sixteen year maternity leave and worked at a Christian preschool here in Noblesville,” Tharp-Taylor said.

Tharp-Taylor believes that her previous experiences as a preschool teacher has helped her keep her high school classes engaging and exciting. For some teachers, ensuring every student is engaged during class can be challenging to ensure that every student is engaged during class. However, sophomores Wigger and Willard believe that Tharp-Taylor’s teaching style successfully captures the attention of students and even inspires some to further pursue learning French.

“She gives us activities and challenges that motivate us to know the most French,” Wigger said. “I’ve spent time at home just messing around and having fun on Duolingo because she’s given me such a love for the language.” 

Tharp-Taylor utilizes more interactive lessons within her class instead of a typical lecture style.

“Every class she is always moving around and getting the entire class to interact.” Wigger said. “She gives us activities and challenges that motivate us.”

Tharp-Taylor’s excitement as a teacher is shown in her classes everyday. She expresses how much joy she found while teaching, an energy that stems from when she took French in high school. 

“I’ve always liked education and learning, I’ve always wanted to teach. There is nothing else I’d rather do,” Tharp-Taylor said.

Wigger describes Tharp-Taylor as a teacher who tries everyday to make sure her students are in a safe and welcoming classroom. Just walking into her classroom she may be heard talking about how age is just a number, or that everyone is equal.

“Madame is very sensitive and always respectful of everyone no matter who they are. She doesn’t pick favorites and treats everyone the same. She has made French class a safe place to learn, laugh, and grow,” Wigger said. “She creates a fun environment that students want to be in.”

Tharp-Taylor now wants to take what she has learned, as a teacher and personal trainer, which she believes she should use in helping others who want it. She wants to encourage people from all backgrounds, no matter their size or their age.

 “I’m envisioning older ladies, maybe older couples, [involved with] strength training and keeping others strong for as long as possible,” Tharp-Taylor said.

With her new understanding of physical conditioning, Tharp-Taylor now wants to help others more than ever. After she retires, Tharp-Taylor wishes to assist others that are in need of feeling more confident, so they can get in shape and feel better than before. 

“I also want to start volunteering in a women’s shelter, and teach a strength training class,” Tharp-Taylor said.

With her love of teaching, Tharp-Taylor aims to teach others that there is not one body shape that represents what a healthy body should look like. 

“I want to break the stereotype that a personal trainer has to have a perfect body or be super young,” Tharp-Tayor said. “Because I believe in health at any size, any age.”