Joyful. Loyal. Amazing. That’s how students and staff at Mt. Hope/Nanjemoy Elementary School describe second-grade teacher Melinda Wright.
Wright is a longtime staple in the Mt. Hope/Nanjemoy community, having taught at the school for the past 26 years. She is one of the most requested teachers at Mt. Hope, by both students and parents, and community members speak with pride in the fact that Wright was once their teacher. Her kind demeanor and positive impact has a lasting effect in the community. Wright’s impact will go further this year as she was recently honored as the 2019 Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) Teacher of the Year.
As the CCPS Teacher of the Year, Wright is a finalist in the Maryland Teacher of the Year awards program. She was surprised by Superintendent Kimberly Hill with the news during a schoolwide assembly held Friday, April 12 at school. Hill asked Wright’s colleagues to describe her in one word, in which words such as “humble” “remarkable” and “inspirational” were shared. Mt. Hope/Nanjemoy students agree and said Wright is helpful and the best teacher at the school.
Earlier this year, the school system honored Teacher of the Year award nominees from every school and announced five finalists, including Wright. Wright said she is honored just to be recognized for doing something she loves. “I am speechless … I am very honored. This is a big honor. I hope I represent you well,” Wright said to her colleagues and students during the assembly.
Wright said she knew from the time she was in elementary school that she wanted to be a teacher. Her first-grade teacher, Sister Nancy, inspired her love of learning. Wright said it was Sister Nancy’s ability to build relationships and connect with students that shaped Wright’s desire at a young age to become a teacher. “Sister Nancy was fresh out of the convent and made us all feel special. My connection with her inspired me to become a teacher. She always had a way of making us feel supported and loved, and I knew I wanted to be the same,” Wright said.
Wright is known in the Mt. Hope/Nanjemoy community as a role model teacher who is compassionate and kind. She puts others first and does whatever it takes to make sure her students feel successful in their learning. Wright is the first teacher to try a new instructional strategy in the classroom and seeks advice from her colleagues to help grow her knowledge base. She advocates for her students and incorporates different instructional methods to ensure students of all learning abilities achieve success.
Wright has taught first-, second- and third-grade classes at Mt. Hope/Nanjemoy. Since she began her career with CCPS, Wright has worked at Mt. Hope/Nanjemoy and taught the inclusion class for her grade level. She is an expert at differentiation, an instructional strategy used by teachers when working with students with different needs, and often uses a team-teaching approach. She is a model instructor for Project Lead the Way and the implementation of STEAM education, which stands for science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics.
“Mrs. Wright is able to guide each student in her class towards their maximum potential. She has embraced the use of learning targets and success criteria in her daily instruction, which has resulted in her students taking ownership of their learning,” Mt. Hope/Nanjemoy Principal William Miller said.
Brielle Swor is a second grader at Mt. Hope/Nanjemoy and is in Wright’s class. Swor said what makes her teacher awesome is how she explains learning targets. “I love how she makes us understand our learning targets. She takes something and breaks it down step by step and helps us to learn about our goal. When she shows it, we learn it,” Swor said.
Swor’s classmate, second grader James Simms, agrees. “Whenever I am stuck, she helps us. Instead of telling us what we have to learn, she gives us learning targets and breaks them down into steps. We use them with math, writing, social studies. It makes learning so much more fun,” Simms said.
Wright holds National Board Certification in the area of generalist/middle childhood, a designation she earned nearly 14 years ago. She has since renewed her certification and models a growth mindset for herself, her colleagues and her students. During her tenure at Mt. Hope/Nanjemoy, Wright has served in many capacities from team leader, new teacher mentor and Destination Imagination (DI) coach to member of the school improvement team, curriculum writer, gifted education and team teacher. But, she is most recognized for her ability to connect with students.
Wright has taught both of Jennifer Brown’s children. Brown’s oldest child is now in high school and still talks about the impact Wright made in her learning. “My oldest daughter still talks about the difference Mrs. Wright made on her. She made her feel comfortable and I believe it was due to her patience. She has taught my children to have fun, be creative, always smile, be appreciative and always stay positive. She has the ability to connect to every student and has truly made a difference,” Brown wrote in a letter of support for Wright’s nomination.
To Wright, her recognition as Teacher of the Year is an award that is as much about Mt. Hope/Nanjemoy as it is herself. “I love everything about our school… being a part of the community. This is for you,” Wright said to her colleagues and students at the school assembly.
As the Charles County Teacher of the Year, Wright is one of 24 state finalists eligible for the Maryland Teacher of the Year Award. The Maryland State Department of Education will select and announce the Maryland Teacher of the Year later this year. Wright will be honored by the Board of Education at its June 11 meeting.
Wright has a bachelor’s degree in early childhood and elementary education from Frostburg State University, and a master’s degree in curriculum and design from Loyola College.
Charles County Public Schools provides 27,108 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.
The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Kathy Kiessling, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Nikial Majors, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.