Melanie Elliott, a seventh-grade accelerated math teacher from Chelsea Middle School, was recently honored by the Shelby County Board of Education and the Shelby County Schools Education Foundation as the 2020 Middle School Teacher of the Year.
Elliott has been teaching for 26 years. She has served 16 years with Shelby County Schools, including the past 10 years at Chelsea Middle. She is the sponsor of the seventh-grade math team, the coordinator of the seventh- grade awards day, and coordinator of the school mentors. She also serves on the school’s Continuous School Improvement Team.
Elliott said engaging middle school students is often a tough task, especially when it comes to mathematics. Once she has taught a concept, she likes to incorporate mathematical group tasks to help the students dig deeper. The students compare two problems, use reasoning skills to explain how the problems are alike or different, and then create their own problems using the concept that is being taught.
“Middle school students love group tasks, but they need guidance in the beginning so that they will know what is expected,” Elliott said. “They quickly learn that they are expected to collaborate to come to an agreed solution. Often times, they need to be redirected with a question such as ‘What about this?’ Through this positive questioning, I can keep students engaged.”
Elliott said students are influenced by this learning. The students become better mathematicians, and their confidence is increased. They learn to collaborate with each other, and they learn to accept each other’s opinions even if they do not always agree.”
“Several aspects of this lesson demonstrate my beliefs about teaching,” she explained. “I believe that I should not always be the one to deliver the lesson. I sometimes need to step back and be the facilitator in order to allow the students to take ownership of their learning.”
“The students become empowered young people which is what my goal would be for them in the end,” she added.
This year had already proven to be a challenging year due to the coronavirus, but Chelsea Middle was also faced with a shortage of math teachers. Elliott took on the double duty of ten classes of students to teach, rather than five.
“For the next seven weeks, I had one mission, and that was to make sure that 200 plus math students progressed in seventh grade math,” said Elliott.
Elliott pulled out an old laptop she had tucked away when she received a new one. She set both laptops up as a technology station that also included a screen with a projector in her classroom and a screen with a projector in a classroom down the hall.
“I set out to be two places at the same time,” Elliott said. “Throughout that time, I taught via Google Meet to my new friends down the hall. They could participate in the chat, and I could give them positive feedback to their responses along with my team of students in my room.”
“Even though this was a crazy time, it was still rewarding for me because I was allowed the privilege to impact, not one but two teams of students in a positive way,” Elliott said. “Having the students prepared, I paved the way for a smooth transition when they received their new teacher. As crazy as it may sound, I would do it all over again.”
School Teacher of the Year Winners – Middle School Level
Calera Midde – Nina Frazier
Columbiana Middle – Brad McClaran
Helena Middle – Chad Sorrells
Montevallo Middle – Matthew Williams
Oak Mountain Middle – Carla Higginbotham