This week we chat with Michelle Stutesman who graduated from The Pilates Center, Boulder’s Advanced Teacher Training Program in 2005. Michelle discovered Pilates as a high school dance student and continued to practice as an undergraduate at university. She is a TPC Licenced Teacher Trainer, teaching out of Alotapilates as well as her own home-based studio in Minneapolis.
Hi Michelle! How are you today?
I’m very well thank you!
What are you up to today?
I just got back from walking my pup, Saku. Because it’s a Monday morning I have set aside time to answer emails and organise my week and then I’m off to teach for the day!
How did you find out about TPC?
I had always heard about The Pilates Center in Boulder, but the reality of how good TPC was (is!) didn’t sink in until I met Nancy Anderson, a TPC graduate and owner of Centerspace Pilates Studio, in 2003.
What was your motivation for learning to teach Pilates?
I’ve always been a mover at heart. While pursuing a modern dance career, I looked to Pilates to keep me strong and in performance shape. It’s strange because I didn’t really care for Pilates when I was first introduced to it, probably because it was taught by instructors who hadn’t had the opportunity to learn properly how to teach Pilates, but when I was interviewing for “real jobs” and asked where I saw myself in 5-10 years I would say “owning my own Pilates studio”. Somehow, I just knew I would end up teaching Pilates, because I couldn’t sit behind a desk. I knew in my soul that I had to move and that I had to share movement.
What was your reason for choosing to train with TPC?
I was halfway though another Pilates teacher training program from which I had taken a break because it wasn’t making sense to me. Pilates was turning out to be something different from what I thought it was. I decided to go to massage school and at the same time I was teaching Pilates at a community education center. It was at this time I met Nancy. I strolled into her barely opened studio and inquired about classes, pretending I didn’t know anything about Pilates. She saw right through me and offered me a job to teach! I said yes, though I had no real idea what I was doing and her only caveat to my hire was I finish a program, preferably classical, but any program.
Shortly after, Amy was doing an advanced mat workshop in Milwaukee, which I went along to. I had no idea what was going on, I had no idea advanced mat even existed! But, I understood what Amy was saying. I understood her ideas behind movement and I knew I wanted to know what Amy knew and I wanted to share that with other people.
I worked my butt off to get into TPC’s Advanced Teacher Training Program and never looked back. It changed my life – being able to use my passion for movement to help people move to the best of their ability, returning every part of the human body back to health, and understanding it’s all linked together. I certainly had not experienced that through my other training program where I was told short spine was a waste of time so let’s not bother to learn it!
Why do you think TPC is the best option for people wanting to become Pilates teachers?
TPC teaches people how to teach! Yes, we learn all of the exercises and the choreography, the nuts and bolts, but more than anything, we learn why the choreography is the way it is.
We learn that everyone can do every exercise, not literally, but we learn to look at bodies and ask ourselves why can’t this body do short spine? How can I get this body to do short spine? And if it’s contraindicated where else can I gain the benefit of short spine that’s not contraindicated.
I believe this is what sets TPC apart. I’ve met great trainers from other schools but they tend to lack an overall understanding of how the Pilates system works as a holistic system. As Rachel always says, the answers are within Pilates. We need to look at each exercise, maybe with fresh eyes to figure out where the answers lie and the longer I teach, the more I know this to be true.
What was or is your favorite thing about TPC training program?
I was introduced not only to Romana’s lineage but to Kathy Grant and Eve Gentry’s teaching as well.
The Pilates Center Teacher Training Program is rigorous! I had to teach and perform the whole time. I had to be able to speak, write and talk about Pilates. It was more than about Pilates, it became an approach to life.
What do you think your experience at TPC has given you?
Training at The Pilates Center, Boulder changed my life. I have met and made friends with people from all over the world – whilst I was in the training program, my best friends were from Vancouver and Israel.
TPC took me to Paris where I helped open the TPC Teacher Training Program and where I met fabulous people from Australia, France, Germany, America and Italy. I learned about culture and the importance of language and I was challenged to teach in French, which added a whole new dimension to my teaching!
Training at TPC taught me to have patience – with myself and others. It opened me up to show kindness and improve my clients’ quality of life. I can and do improve people’s lives and this is very humbling!
It has also challenged me to have a voice, to be able to speak my voice and encourages me to work and share space with people I don’t always agree with.
What would you say to someone who is considering training with TPC?
TPC will not only teach you Pilates exercises but it will begin to connect the dots for you until Pilates makes absolute sense. You will learn skills that are valuable to being a successful teacher. TPC challenges you to always look for the why and to return to the Pilates method to find your answers. TPC training sharpens your eye, hones your critical thinking, encourages you to question the repertoire and stand in the base of the original method until you know how to appropriately branch out when and if needed. It’s these skills, this mind frame that sets TPC teachers apart from others.