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Michelle Higgins’ career path took her from corporate law to the classroom at St. Ann School in Wilmington

Michelle Higgins left her law career to be a stay-at-home mom to her four children and is now a teacher at St. Ann School in Wilmington. Submitted photo

WILMINGTON — The search for a school for her four children led to an unexpected career shift for Michelle Higgins. The Wilmington resident traded a law library for a classroom full of 8-year-olds, and she hasn’t looked back.

Higgins had worked in corporate law before becoming a stay-at-home mom, and she and her husband were looking at different schools when they checked out St. Ann School, which happened to be in their Highlands neighborhood. They enrolled their children there, and Higgins got involved as a lunch volunteer and the leader of the Lego Club. That led to a part-time role as an assistant teacher in second grade, and now she is the school’s third-grade teacher.

“I knew I wanted to work with kids,” she said recently at the school.

While an undergraduate at New York University, Higgins was a tutor, going into schools in the city to help children with their homework. She also tutored while a high school student in Allentown, Pa., and worked at a daycare. During her law career, she served as a guardian ad litem to a baby in foster care, so the inclination was always there.

A guardian ad litem represents the interests of a child during a court case.

“That was my favorite part of my entire legal career. I knew I was drawn into working with kids always,” she said.

She met her husband, Jim, at New York University. He is also an attorney. Their children range in age from 4-11.

The family keeps her busy, for sure, but Higgins has plenty of other things to keep her occupied. She is the moderator of St. Ann’s school newspaper, a basketball coach and animal keeper, with baby chicks, a guinea pig and a tadpole in her classroom. She also headed the robotics elective while she was an assistant teacher.

The guinea pig is a class therapy animal, she said. Students can get special time with it for reading or if they have a loss in the family.

She said she has no regrets about changing careers. Some of the similarities between the two are the need for problem-solving skills and analytical thinking.

“I like the kids. I like the pace of it. I like the challenge,” said Higgins, 39. “I think they’re funny. They say funny things. There’s never a dull moment.”

Three of her children currently attend St. Ann’s, and the other one will join them soon. Higgins likes that she is able to spend so much time with them since their hours are the same. One of her kids is in her class, which was the case last year as well.

“He calls me ‘Mom,’ but I treat them all exactly the same,” Higgins said. “I want the best education for my children. I provide that.”

With four children, free time can be hard to come by. When Higgins does have some, she likes to read, go running, watch movies and listen to podcasts. She recommends the “This American Life” podcast and also several devoted to teaching.

On top of all that, she is a convert to the Catholic Church. She joined when it became apparent that St. Ann’s would be the family’s educational home. She’s happy to be there.

“I love it. I think it’s a great school. I like its size. You can’t replicate it.”