Memphis’ Melissa Collins named Tennessee Trainer of the Yr

Recent from being named Tennessee’s Trainer of the Yr for 2022-23, Memphis second-grade educator Melissa Collins credit her household and 21 years within the classroom for making ready her to symbolize a career that badly wants recharging.

Her father, she recollects, taught her the way to compete as a younger athlete, whereas her mom’s dying phrases in February had been to “hold it shifting.” 

And as a nationwide chief in STEAM training, Collins has impressed each college students and colleagues whereas additionally serving on quite a few panels to develop curriculum and coaching that integrates science, expertise, engineering, the humanities, and math.

“I really feel like I used to be simply constructed for this,” she stated in regards to the alternative to function Tennessee’s chief training ambassador throughout the state and nation. Subsequent spring, she’ll compete within the Nationwide Trainer of the Yr competitors.

Collins is a trainer and classroom innovator at John P. Freeman Non-compulsory College in Memphis-Shelby County Colleges.

“I’m able to share our tales,” Collins informed reporters Friday, after receiving her honor the evening earlier than at a banquet in Nashville hosted by the Tennessee Division of Schooling and the state superintendents group.

Collins is already a extremely adorned educator. In 2020, she was inducted into the Nationwide Trainer Corridor of Fame. Her listing of honors contains Amazon Future Engineer Trainer of the Yr, a Nationwide College Award, and a 2018 World Trainer Prize Finalist.

And on Friday, she acquired her second main statewide accolade in two days: Tennessee’s 2022 Historical past Trainer of the Yr. That award is introduced yearly by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American Historical past, the nation’s main group devoted to Okay-12 U.S. historical past training.

In her second-grade classroom, Collins integrates a number of topics and makes use of the STEAM method to information scholar inquiry, dialogue, and problem-solving.

In a 2016 interview with Chalkbeat, she described how she loves “considering exterior of the field” to deliver her classes alive — whether or not by utilizing music as a studying device or offering her college students with lab coats throughout science classes so that they view themselves as real-life scientists.

“I need my college students to type a curiosity in regards to the world — to suppose past their neighborhoods,” she stated. “That’s success to me, when a scholar is asking questions for the sake of their very own understanding.”

That summer time, Collins joined 36 educators from all over the world at a world summit in India. Three years earlier, she went to Brazil as a World Studying Fellow by way of the NEA Basis — an expertise she blogged about and used to develop classes for different academics. These experiences, she stated, helped her expose her college students at John P. Freeman Non-compulsory College to different cultures.

Now she will even search to energise different academics and symbolize a career that has suffered from burnout and endured further scrutiny whereas navigating a public well being emergency, masks mandates, e-book bans, and a political backlash on the way to educate America’s historical past of racism.

“For the final two years, the pandemic has introduced so many challenges,” Collins stated. “However as academics, we proceed to dream huge for our college students.”

She added: “You’ll be able to solely obtain success should you refuse to surrender.”

Collins was chosen for the state’s prime educating honor out of 9 finalists from throughout Tennessee, all of whom will serve this college 12 months on Schooling Commissioner Penny Schwinn’s trainer advisory council to supply suggestions and inform her division’s work.

She follows Morgan Rankin, a second-grade educator at South Aspect College in Johnson Metropolis, who was named Tennessee’s prime trainer final 12 months.

The award has been given yearly since 1960 to acknowledge excellent academics, promote efficient educating practices, and rejoice the educating career. You’ll be able to view previous recipients right here.

Marta W. Aldrich is a senior correspondent and covers the statehouse for Chalkbeat Tennessee. Contact her at

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