The Power of a Teacher’s Passion for Teaching: Abby Ruehlmann


Emily Hu

“I genuinely love teaching,” ELA teacher Abby Ruehlmann said. “I love being a teacher. I love being in my classroom. I love school. I love my students. So it’s really fulfilling and emotional.”

Emily Hu

To what extent can someone love their job? Today, millions of people say they have no passion in what they do, they don’t earn enough for what they do, or they feel constant overwhelming pressure because of what they do. Abby Ruehlmann says otherwise. 

“I can’t imagine not getting excited about going to work every day,” Clague eighth grade ELA teacher Abby Ruehlmann said. “That just sounds like a hard way to live.”

Back in college, Ruehlmann accidentally graduated a year early. She had originally planned the route of taking a four year course. Because of how much she loved to learn new things, she took extra classes. One day, while visiting an advising appointment during her junior year, she surprisingly found out she had enough credits to graduate early. 

Given the new opportunity and the cost of college, she decided to set aside her pre-planned route and end her college education a year early. 

“I didn’t have a job because I thought I had another year of school,” Ruehlmann said. “So, I worked three different jobs trying to figure out what was going to happen next because I didn’t have a plan. One of the jobs ended up working in schools.”

It was actually a job at Huron with 826 Michigan, a national program for tutoring and writing projects. 

“That was when I decided I really want to teach,” Ruehlmann said. “I love this. So I applied to get a master’s degree and a certification in teaching from U of M.

Before coming to Clague Middle School, Ruehlmann endeavored her first two years of teaching in Dearborn, Michigan. Having been teaching exclusively sixth grade during that period of time, coming to teach 8th grade at Clague was a whole new experience. 

“When I found out I was going to teach eighth grade here, I was actually really disappointed because I was so attached to sixth graders,” Ruehlmann said. “But now I’m convinced that eighth graders are the best and I’m really happy teaching eighth grade.”

This is her fifth year teaching at Clague Middle School, and definitely not the last. 

“I’m doing the most important thing I’ll ever do in my life every day at my job,” Ruehlmann said.  “That can be really exhilarating, but also really exhausting. “I genuinely love it. I love being a teacher. I love being in my classroom. I love school. I love my students. So it’s really fulfilling and emotional.”

In 2020, COVID-19 cases started to surge. Like schools across the globe, Clague was transitioned into virtual. Ruehlmann was deeply influenced.

“The spotlight on teachers has really grown during the pandemic,” Ruehlmann said. “ Parents and community members not only in Ann Arbor but across the country and across the world had a lot of feelings about school. A lot of the criticism got targeted toward teachers even though we weren’t making decisions.”

Ruehlmann was one of the many teachers who faced these critiques.

“There was a lot of coverage and criticism saying that teaching was easy and we were getting paid to work from home,” Ruehlmann said. “We’re just doing our jobs and doing what we’re told to do, and teaching online during COVID was much harder and not the job that any of us signed up for. So I think that there’s different kinds of pressure, societal pressure and then personal pressure.”

“[Teaching virtually] made me a better teacher,” Ruehlmann said. “Because I’m not a perfectionist at all. I just try to learn from my mistakes and be better every day. But if there’s one area where I’m the hardest on myself, it’s definitely my job. Last year taught me that.  You can’t bear the burden of what you can’t control.”

Through COVID, Ruehlmann found her own way to cope with this problem.

“It’s not worthwhile to be so stressed about things when no one knows what’s going on, and no one tells you what’s going on,” Ruehlmann said. “You just have to take it one day at a time. This year I’ve noticed that manifesting itself in how I am as a teacher and my relationship with work is a lot healthier because I’ve been able to really adapt to that attitude shift. 

As Ruehlmann likes to say, “attitude is the difference between an adventure and an ordeal, you’d rather have an adventure than an ordeal.”

Even now, after seven years of teaching, her love, attitude, and craving for learning has not decreased the tiniest bit. 

“I never want to stop learning,” Ruehlmann said. “ I always want to grow and change and get new experiences and understand things differently.  I’m working on a second master’s degree, not for a career, —it won’t do much for me in terms of professionally— but because I just love learning and missed being in school. 

Ruehlmann is pursuing a master’s degree in Literature, on top of her normal job and hours of grading and planning, adding more hours of dedication and time.

“All of my free time is just so delicately allocated and I don’t feel stressed or overwhelmed,” Ruehlmann said. “I’ve learned when you’re juggling life, some of the things you’re juggling are made of rubber, and some of them are made of glass. You have to be careful of what you drop. Because some stuff you can drop and pick back up. Others, if you drop it, you’re going to have to put it back together again.”