It has been a banner year for members of the Idaho Education Association when it comes to collecting awards, grants, prizes and tributes. Capping things off was the announcement that Melyssa Ferro, a science teacher at Syringa Middle School in Caldwell, was named Idaho’s 2016 Teacher of the Year. She received the prestigious honor at a surprise assembly in the school gymnasium, being lauded by Idaho State Superintendent Sherri Ybarra in front of crowd of students, fellow teachers and special guests such as IEA President Penni Cyr and Caldwell Education Association president Debbie Olsen.
As Idaho’s Teacher of the Year, Ferro receives a $1,000 award, is eligible for National Teacher of the Year honors, and will be invited to address the legislature during the upcoming session. The opportunity to serve as spokesman and advocate for Idaho’s teachers and students is something that she takes very seriously. “I want to be the Lorax,” Ferro says. “To be the person who speaks for those who can’t advocate for themselves.” (See our Education Perspectives story for more on Ferro’s ideas and opinions about public education in Idaho)
Being recognized for her enthusiasm about teaching and her dedication to students is nothing new for Ferro. She also recently received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching, and was named the Teacher of the Year in Caldwell. All of which is indicative of her primary objective—helping students maximize their potential by making math and science interesting.
“I want kids to have positive, hands-on experiences and develop a passion for learning now,” she says. Examples of that approach include collaborative programs with local colleges, a partnership with the Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge, and an every-other-year trip to Tampa for exploration field research.
At first wanting to be a scientist herself, Ferro eventual found more satisfaction in inspiring and mentoring others, and called home in her sophomore year of college to tell her parents that she had decided to be a teacher. She found sympathetic ears there, as her parents, Milon and Joyce McDaniel, are both professional educators who share the same passion and persistence.
A number of other IEA members have received special recognition or honors recently:
- Paula Brockman of Lowell Scott Middle School in West Ada won a $100,000 grant from Farmers Insurance in the Dream Big Teacher Challenge. Brockman is a sixth grade geography and English teacher who plans to use the grant for an outdoor classroom with interpretive learning stations, a greenhouse and more.
- Melissa Hunt from Stoddard Elementary in Blackfoot received a $2,500 award in the Dream Big Teacher Challenge. She was a $100,000 grant winner last year.
- Kathy Prummer (Sand Point Middle School) and Mary Towler (Compass Academy, Idaho Falls) were named finalists for Presidential Award in Mathematics and Science.
- Christy Hall of Reed Elementary School in Kuna received a $750.00 grant from CapEd to provide books and book bags so that students can read at home to supplement their classroom work.
- Steve Haugenberg of Minico High School received the Lifetime Achievement Award for Track from the Idaho High School Activities Association. He was also named the 2015 State of Idaho Track Coach of the Year by the Idaho State Coaches Association.