February 2021

Chris and Kendra: Your MI Write Team, Part 2

Chris and Kendra: Your MI Write Team, Part 2


Christine Pirrello has been the Professional Development and Education Manager for MI Write for the last two years.  

Christine Pirrello

What do you love about your job?
I love the opportunity to work with teachers and administrators to promote best practices and effective writing instruction strategies to improve student outcomes.

What has been the biggest obstacle in your career? 
I raised my children on my own which dictates early career choices, but I worked to find a position that challenges and motivates me.

What is your degree in?
I have a master’s degree in Education, and my bachelor’s degree focused on environmental science.

What is the weirdest or most interesting job you’ve ever had? What made it weird or interesting?
I worked in a zoo for a summer. I got up close and personal with some very interesting animals.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I hope the world is back to being more socially connected and with more unity of purpose.

What has been the hardest part of the COVID-19 pandemic for you?
I know that I’ve been more fortunate than so many others, but I certainly do miss contact with my family and friends.

What is your proudest accomplishment?
For the parts of them that I may have positively influenced, my children are my proudest accomplishment.

What is your favorite family recipe/tradition?
I am always expected to make pies for any family gathering. The favorites are fudge pecan and banana cream.


Kendra Timberlake

Kendra Timberlake has been a Client Success Specialist for the last two years, but has been with MI since 1986. Having held several different positions in that time, her favorite was Director of Community Relations where she assisted with the development of MI’s public relations program, promoted community outreach efforts, and developed employee engagement programs.

What do you love about your job?
Meeting clients and hearing from them about the new and innovative ways they are providing writing instruction to their students.

What has been the biggest obstacle in your career? How did you overcome it?
Changing technology. I made sure I worked overtime watching demos, researching, and attending webinars to increase my knowledge. Then I placed myself in a situation where I had to teach it to someone else.

What is your degree in?
B.S. Communications Studies; M.Ed Curriculum & Instruction

What is the weirdest or most interesting job you’ve ever had? What made it weird or interesting?
I used to be a technical assistant at a tv station in Texas. One of my jobs was running the teleprompter for the anchors. One time, I was running their script and the pages fell to the floor. To say the least, it was interesting to watch their eyes follow the script to the floor and then flounder for words.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Retired and teaching writing and communications at a community college.

What has been the hardest part of the COVID-19 pandemic for you?
Hugging. Hugging is my favorite thing.

What is your proudest accomplishment?
Raising children who turned out to be good people.

What is your favorite family recipe/tradition?
Our favorite tradition is reading the Christmas story (and sometimes acting it out) before we open presents!

Stay tuned to meet more of our awesome team members!

Parents and the Pandemic, Part 1

Parents and the Pandemic, Part 1


There isn’t a group of people who have not been affected in one way or another by the global pandemic of 2020. Last month, we introduced a few teacher friends who have been trudging through the challenges of virtual school and gave you an idea of how some teachers are faring. This month, we are looking into what it’s like to be a parent of children who have at least started the 2020-21 school year online. 

To get a general idea of how parents are feeling, we asked them the same four questions we asked teachers: What is your overall experience with school this year? What has been the best part? What is your biggest challenge? What do you hope to take away from 2020?

Sandy says, “As a parent, it’s been a roller coaster of time management (not going well), increased responsibility (going surprisingly well), and a greater awareness of what the kids are learning (wonderful). I will take away the fact that my kids are capable of more than I give them credit for. I need to remember that.” 

Rachel’s experience has also been more on the positive side. Feeling that her county has really stepped up and met the challenges of virtual learning head-on, she feels confident in the quality of her children’s education. “I’ve also gained a new respect for the teaching profession,” she says. The best part of this experience for her is knowing that as long as the kids are virtually learning, they are staying home, increasing the chances of keeping the family healthy. However, that leads to the greatest challenge of having three kids in three different grade levels. They’re all on different schedules, making the day very hectic. Rachel hopes to take away “more appreciation for the ‘normal things,’ like my children being in an in-person school setting.”

In-person learning has many benefits, but one of the greatest advantages is the socialization that schools afford students, the aspect of the pandemic taking the greatest toll on our younger population. Ashley is aware of the effects that the lack of socialization has had on her 8th grader. She’s loved having her near, and the best part is knowing that she’s still learning, but Ashley recognizes the struggle of being home and away from classmates. “The biggest challenge is the part where she doesn’t get to socialize like normal. Kids need it and I know she is tired of looking at the same faces every day.” She hopes that this year will help “give her [daughter] a better understanding of being safe yet flexible.”

This school year has not been so positive for everyone. Megan has twin 8th graders, who are self-sufficient and able to complete the school day without her help, a 3rd grader and a kindergartner. She says, “The little ones and I fight and argue most days to get their work done and to stop getting up or messing around. They are pretty unhappy doing virtual school.” Technical issues also crop up and cause problems. Megan’s biggest challenge is her 3rd grader who is a “busy boy and easily distracted, likes to argue and is quite stubborn.” When he’s IN school where there is a more structured learning environment, he does wonderfully. At home, however, he is more distracted by pets, snacks, and tv. With these challenges, it is difficult to find something good about this school year. “No car line maybe?” she laughs and then adds, “The teachers have been great!” Megan is realizing this year “that a few things need to change with the way we function as a family, and also that I need to relax when it comes to worrying about things that are out of my control.” And if there’s ever been a time to see all of the things out of our control, it’s 2020.

Misty is another parent who has struggled this year. She says her biggest challenge is keeping her son’s attention on his work. “It’s difficult to keep a 6-year-old focused on a screen for long periods of time. I have to get on him every day to pay attention, sit still, and do his assignments, and it’s tough!” The silver lining? “His teacher has been wonderful and very understanding. She’ll work with us and is flexible.” Misty’s big takeaway for 2020 is that she can now see in-person what her son is learning instead of guessing what he’s doing in school. “I can see what levels he’s at in reading and math. I know now where he’s at versus where he needs to be.” 

We know that this has been a trying year for everyone. We don’t want to miss the opportunity to commend those parents who took on new roles and learned how to roll with the punches that come with virtual learning. Thank you, parents, for finding those silver linings and working through the challenges. There is no handbook on how to parent, teach, provide, and support, all while maintaining your own career and livelihood. So kudos to you!  This is just another reminder that we really are all in this together and that only together will we be able to get through this.