The Indiana Department of Education and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett named Riverview Middle School teacher Melanie Park, who holds two Indiana University School of Education degrees, as Indiana's 2012 Teacher of the Year. Bennett presented Park with the award during a surprise ceremony Oct. 10 at her school in Huntington, Ind.
Park is a reading remediation teacher for grades six, seven and eight. She earned an elementary education degree from IU Bloomington in 1993, then a master's in language education in 2001. She received a 2011 Lilly Teacher Creativity Fellowship grant earlier this year. As well as her classroom duties, Park also teaches an online course for teachers on methods to teach writing.
In all, 20 IU School of Education alumni have won the Indiana Teacher of the Year award, including the two most recent awards. Park follows 2011 Indiana Teacher of the Year Stacy McCormack, B.S.'99, a physics teacher at Penn High School in Mishawaka, Ind.. Last year's runner-up for the honor was also an IU alumnus, Jamil Odom, M.S. '05, of Mary Bryan Elementary in Metropolitan School District of Perry Township.
This year's finalists also included IU School of Education alumna Lisa Steele, M.S. '96, an 8th grade language arts teacher at Eastwood Middle School in the M.S.D. of Washington Township.
"We're very proud of all of our alumni accomplishments," said Gerardo Gonzalez, dean of the School of Education. "But it is especially gratifying that for two consecutive years IU School of Education alumni have been selected as Indiana's Teacher of the Year. To have graduates from such distinct fields as physics and language education selected for this honor speaks volumes about the quality of our alumni and the strength of our programs."
Over 10 years in teaching, Park has shown creativity and versatility. She's taught first grade, language arts, social studies and French. She focuses on student growth, setting reading goals for her students and creating data portfolios to chart their growth.
"I feel like I am meeting my students in the victory circle," Park wrote in her Teacher of the Year application.
"Melanie's enthusiasm spills into all aspects of her teaching," Bennett said in an Indiana Department of Education news release. "She believes all students -- regardless of their life circumstances -- can learn, and she is an effective and inspirational teacher that her students will always remember."
"On behalf of all of us at the IU School of Education, I extend Melanie our heartfelt congratulations," said Dean Gonzalez. "She continues a long tradition of outstanding IU graduates making a difference in classrooms across the state."
An Indiana Department of Education committee including department personnel, past Teacher of the Year honorees and external community and education leaders selected Park as the Teacher of the Year after interviewing 10 finalists and making classroom visits. Park will be Indiana's nominee for the 2012 National Teacher of the Year honor. All 32 Indiana Teacher of the Year candidates will be recognized at a banquet on Nov. 14.
The Indiana Teacher of the Year Program is sponsored by the IDOE, the Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning (CELL) and CSO Architects. The National Teacher of the Year Program, which is sponsored by ING, Target, University of Phoenix and People to People, is a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers.
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