Teacher Spotlight: LAC’s Melissa Anderson

January 6, 2021

Teacher Spotlight: LAC’s Melissa Anderson

By Kate Krieger-Watkins, staff writer.

Teacher Spotlight is a presentation of Shelby State Bank, www.shelbystatebank.com with offices in Ludington, Pentwater, Shelby, Hart, Hesperia, Manistee, Montague, Whitehall, North Muskegon, and Fruitport. 

LUDINGTON – Who knew checking out a book about becoming an educator in second grade could set the stage for Melissa Anderson’s life-long career? Anderson, a teacher at Ludington Area Catholic has always known she would be a teacher.

“I grew up in Rockford, graduating from Rockford High School in 1989,” she said. “I then went to Central Michigan University, graduating in 1994. There is no great inspiration story about why I went into education; I just always knew I would be a teacher. I have a vivid memory of checking out a library book for a project when I was actually in second grade. The book was about becoming a teacher. I never veered from that path.”

Teaching for 25 years, Anderson started in 1995 at LAC for a few years before she started on a different path; having a family.

“I have been in education for 25 years,” she said. “I started my career teaching fourth grade at LAC in 1995. After two years, I had my first child and stopped teaching to be at home. However, I was soon recruited by Dave Pierce who was looking for someone to fill an ‘at risk’ position at Lakeview. At-risk funding was something new at that time and he figured it’d last a year. I ended up spending the next 10 years working under the wide umbrella of at-risk. I provided small group math and reading instruction to third through fifth graders at Lakeview and Foster, helped implement the PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention Supports) initiative, and organized administration of standardized testing (at the time it was the MEAP test).”

Returning to a classroom setting when her youngest child entered preschool, Anderson accepted a job at Mason County Central teaching at the Upper Elementary School, but she didn’t know she would be returning to familiar territory soon after.

“Over the years, I had three more children and when my youngest was starting preschool I decided to return to a classroom position,” she said. “I taught fourth grade at Scottville Upper Elementary for a year, before a dip in enrollment caused layoffs. At that time, there was a second grade opening at LAC and I applied. Being offered that job felt like I was ‘coming home.’ Many of the same staff were still there.”

Returning to LAC has been very special for Anderson and she has been able to help implement different educational strategies and programs since she has returned.

“I’ve been teaching second grade for nine years and had the opportunity to learn about and implement a first/second multiage classroom for some of that time,” she said. “This is such a fun age to teach. The students enjoy learning and being at school. I appreciate the sense of joy they bring to school with them each day. It’s contagious. It brings me joy to tailor the lessons to the interests of my students. That just makes school all the more fun for me and the kids. Second grade is a milestone year for Catholic students as they receive the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist. I am grateful that I get to be part of this formation.”

Last spring, like the other schools in the area and around the country, LAC was forced to distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Anderson stated that even though the changed was unfamiliar and quick, it also had a lot of positive sides as well.

“When the schools had to close last spring, it was a challenge to pivot and make quick decisions on how to best ensure that my class received instruction and could continue learning,” Anderson said. “It truly was a blessing in disguise as I was pushed out of my comfort zone and learned to utilize technology more than I had in the past. I found out that some of my students responded more readily when recording themselves than they would’ve in a traditional in-person setting.”

Taking some of the strategies she used during distance learning, Anderson now uses them in her classroom to assist those students who thrived during the spring.

“Thankfully, this school year my classroom has been able to remain in-person,” she said. “However, I am implementing some of the best practices that I discovered in the spring. Students have chances to use their iPads to record themselves explaining their work or to take pictures to demonstrate understanding of a concept. I feel more appreciative of the in-person time and want to not take it for granted. I am taking time now to work with kids on digital citizenship and even though we are in class together, we are practicing how to craft a response to what a classmate posts. We can talk about behavior expectations during a google meet and the students have experience with it so they can help establish the rules. At any point if the students need to switch to virtual learning they will do so with confidence. I am very excited for what the future holds for these kids.”

Working with great students and families has been a huge part of Anderson’s enjoyment in teaching, but she also stated that working at different places has also been a blessing.

“Reflecting on my career I feel really lucky to have been part of the various staffs I’ve been on,” Anderson said. “The people you work with will be your strength; your colleagues will support you when you struggle, challenge you to stretch your expectations, will be there for you to celebrate success and lift you up when you most need it. What a privilege it has been to work with so many fine educators over the years.”

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