Melissa Lewis knows well that a teacher's job isn't over at 3 p.m. After 20 years of teaching the sciences, she recently made her way to Pell City High School as a biology teacher. When asked about how she found her way into education, Lewis said, "Teaching found me!” She was a stay at home mom before being tapped to teach a kindergarten class, eventually earning her teaching certificate at JSU and finding positions in both the private and public school systems. Read on to learn more about Melissa Lewis, our November Teacher of the Month.
INSIDE THE CLASSROOM
What inspires you?
The light bulb moment when students grasp a concept or realize they understand something they’ve been struggling with.
What is your approach to teaching students?
I let them find out their learning styles and then incorporate them into most lessons. I use a lot of hands-on and visual activities to engage the students and help them learn in their own way.
What’s the most important purpose a teacher performs?
When I first started teaching in the public school system, I felt—due to pressure from local and state boards—that teaching the [ALSDE] standards and concepts was the most important thing a teacher should do. However, I’ve learned through my students that cultivating relationships and teaching to their heart is the most important. If you do that and set a foundation of trust and love then the concepts and standards fall into place.
What’s a common misconception about your job?
A common misconception is that we teach 8 to 3 and go home, that we have summers and long Christmas breaks to relax. Most days start before 7 a.m., and when I get home, I grade papers, make tests, design and make manipulatives to use in class, answer emails, etcetera, until 10:30 or 11:00 p.m. after cooking dinner and doing household chores. Our vacations are usually spent making plans for the next school year and going to professional development classes.
How do you stay motivated in the classroom?
Professional development, workshops and bouncing ideas off of my colleagues help keep me motivated and fresh in my classroom. I think a teacher should always be willing to update and change teaching activities and plans. Another thing that motivates me are the students and seeing their growth.
What advice would you share with people who are interested in becoming teachers?
It is tough these days, but it is worth it. I would suggest that they shadow teaching jobs of each grade level and find their niche to learn if teaching is for them.
What advice would you give a first-year teacher?
Be consistent and have a management plan in place for everything. Be proactive instead of reactive.
What would you say to the class of 2023-2024?
Don’t let fear of failing keep them from striving for their dreams. We only learn through our failures, and if we’re winning all the time there is nothing learned or gained. Your circumstances do not define you. You each have the ability to rise above your circumstance and become the BEST that you can be. You have teachers and mentors that have been placed in your lives for this very reason–to help you see your worth and ability. It takes determination and grit, but you are not alone.