As a new teacher, I recall learning how to create a conducive learning environment for all students. Then I realized I could not do it alone. I began involving stakeholders. My journey has been difficult, yet rewarding. In receiving the Presidential Award, I am cognizant it takes the efforts of everyone in the community. This recognition from President Barack Obama motivates me to continue to work with others as we educate urban students as they become future scientists and mathematicians.

Melissa Collins Memphis, TN | K-6, Science, 2008

The official biography below was current at the time of the award.

Melissa Collins has taught second grade at John P. Freeman Optional School in the Memphis City Schools since 1999. In addition to mathematics and science, she teaches reading, grammar, social studies, and spelling. At her school, she serves as Second Grade Chair, cochairs the School Leadership Council, is a School Association Representative, and is active in the School Improvement and Marketing teams. As Mentor Coordinator, Ms. Collins communicates with all mentors and teaching protégés to ensure the success of the "Raising the Bar" program implemented by Memphis City Schools. She supports her own protégés in and outside of the classroom, providing resources and teaching strategies. A protégé recalls Ms. Collins's zest for professional development--helping make the teacher aware of the "big idea" in science, showing the importance of involving students in science inquiry, and patiently guiding a science inquiry lesson integrated with mathematics. Colleagues and parents alike cite Ms. Collins's enthusiasm and tireless efforts in bringing education to life for her students. A parent whose child began to excel in mathematics and science praised Ms. Collins for a hands-on approach to teaching science concepts such as the hypothesis, test planning, and data recording and for involving parents in her science lessons. Outside the classroom, Ms. Collins has hosted parent meetings to boost students' expectations in mathematics and science, and she has spearheaded community events to promote these subjects. One such event featured firefighters, police officers, a radio personality, and a sports mascot reading mathematics- and science-related books. She is also a member of Delta Sigma Theta. Ms. Collins's recognitions include the John P. Freeman Teacher of the Year award and the Memphis Education Association's My Favorite Educator award. Ms. Collins has a B.S. in elementary education from Murray State University, an M.Ed. in administration, a specialist's degree in administration, and is currently working on a doctoral degree from the University of Southern Mississippi. She is a National Board Certified Teacher.