Tell us about YOU!! (Who are you & What do you do?) I’m Michelle Houlihan and I’m a passionate educator who brings the vibrant world of education to the Women’s Business League! I’m the Head of School at Fusion Learning Center in Andover where we change the lives of our students through a personalized approach to learning. Although Fusion is newer to the Boston area, I fell in love with the model back in 2013 at the Westchester, NY campus. When I realized Fusion’s one-to-one, relationships-first model had everything I ever dreamed of in the world of education I was IN. Before finding Fusion, I worked as an elementary school teacher in the New York Public School system and was lucky enough to have travels bring me to the beautiful countries of Greece and Italy, where I taught English as a Foreign Language. Outside of Fusion, I have a true love for traveling and exploring new cultures. I especially love spending time at the beach, where I am learning how to surf and enjoy all New York sports. I love to bring out the best in people and always try to find ways to make people laugh.
What makes you different/stand out in your industry? Fusion Academy itself stands out in the education industry because of the personalized, one-to-one nature of what we do. It’s very different than other schools and it’s why I love it. I’ve always wanted to do things differently, knowing there was a better way to support students. I stand out in education because of the work I get to do at Fusion. I also bring a lot of experience in various roles at Fusion (I’ll talk about that later) so as a leader I can see things from others’ perspectives because I’ve been there. I could talk about Fusion for days, so I’ll spare you that…for now.
What do your clients love about you? My “clients” are technically my middle and high students which could cultivate some great content, but I think it is best to keep this article PG which is why I am sharing a humbling testimonial one of my Fusion Andover families wrote on my behalf:
“I am the mother of three children. My daughter, Greta, is the youngest, at 18 years of age, and her brothers are 22 and 24 years old. Each one them has had a different education path so I am quite versed in public and private modes of learning environments. Most recently, Greta, enrolled at Fusion Academy in early March 2020 just before the COVID 19 pandemic. The experience at Fusion and her relationship with her teacher, Michelle Houlihan was by far the most dramatic venture I have witnessed within a school.
It all started when we took the tour and landed in Michelle’s office to chat. I noticed immediately the attentiveness Michelle gave my daughter. Michelle has a natural ability to make a person feel comfortable. There’s an openness and desire to connect that she exudes which attracted all of us! The Fusion model allows a student to design their courses around their interests so Michelle crafted her inquiry carefully to extract those specific areas and helped Greta create a vision for what her semester could look like. At that moment we had no idea that our world was about to be turned upside down. That was the last time we saw Michelle in person. Fusion Academy, the following week, created their virtual learning classes.
It’s absolutely amazing how seamless Michelle, as Director and teacher at Fusion, made this shift for the school. As we were apprehensive and doubtful about online courses and not to mention the technical problems that might arise on both ends. Yet, the Fusion teaching model is 1:1 therefore the virtual platform supported that type of structure. Greta enrolled in 3 classes and one of them was with Michelle, called Life Skills. This course was a playground for Michelle’s creativity and passion for life. Greta shared every assignment with me and was always excited for the next session with Michelle. I noticed immediate changes in Greta’s attitude and care for herself despite the difficulties that being under quarantine presented. Michelle taught Greta mindfulness skills that have helped her cope in positive ways.
What I admire most about Michelle is her keen perception to see a person’s unique qualities and strengths. She cultivated curiosity and motivation within Greta because Michelle embodies those attributes herself. My daughter was extremely fortunate to have the individual attention, twice a week, with Michelle. “ – Fusion Andover Parent
What is the best advice you can share with others? Step outside of your comfort zone and see challenge as opportunity. In my time at Fusion Academy I’ve held many different roles and have often been pushed outside my comfort zone, which is tough but always leads to great things. My journey started as a teacher/mentor and moved into being a Post-Secondary Counselor, Head of School in training, interim Head of School, and now Head of School. It has taken me from White Plains, NY to Miami, FL to Fairfield, CT and now Andover, MA.
I was so excited to open our school in Andover, but my world was shaken when we weren’t approved to become a full school. Our team has risen above and created something beautiful with our Learning Center. We just re-submitted our application to the school board and are awaiting a response. With COVID-19 we quickly moved from in-person to virtual learning, which is another new adventure. Through all this change I’ve been challenged and grown into who I am today because I chose to see it as opportunity instead of a roadblock. I’m so grateful for everything that has come my way, because it has led me to where I am today with you all!
How has the Women’s Business League helped you? As a newer resident to Massachusetts, I always wondered if I would be able to find people I love and adore just like my friends and family back home. Then I found Women’s Business League, the group I now love to call “my tribe, my people”. I’ll never forget my first Lunch & Learn and was truly blown away by the kindness, talent, and life in the room – especially Amy’s smile! WBL has helped me cultivate a group of women who have changed my life, taught me all the ins and outs about the Andover’s and surrounding communities, and especially gave me a sense of connection. As someone who is opening a new private middle and high school in Andover, WBL has helped in spreading the word about our unique model. I have been more connected than ever with families and professionals who can benefit from our 1:1, personalized approach to education and I am loving every second of it.