ALMONT — For the past nine years, Melissa Ashbaugh has approached her duties as a second-grade teacher at Orchard Primary School with devotion, consistency and humility.
That dedication to her job and the children she teaches regularly translates to personal rewards.
However, few rewards can equal her recent recognition as a 2007 Teacher of the Year nominee by the State of Michigan Department of Education.
Elementary teacher Melissa Ashbaugh is the center of attention to her students at Orchard Primary School in Almont. Ashbaugh has been nominated for 2007 Teacher of the Year honors in the State of Michigan. photo by Tom Wearing.
Ashbaugh was acknowledged for her service to the district last Tuesday by members of the Almont Board of Education.
While appreciative of the recognition the nomination has afforded her, Ashbaugh believes she is merely representative of all teachers who work and strive every day to help young people maximize their educational experiences.
"I feel that all teachers should be appreciated for the time, effort and caring they put into our jobs," she says. "I don't know that the average person realizes what goes into being a teacher. But all you have to do is drive past this school either before or after regular hours to see how many teacher's cars are already or still in the parking lot."
Putting in long hours isn't the only prerequisite for being a good teacher, says Ashbaugh. It requires taking the extra time to connect with the individual child.
"I try to accommodate each child on an individual basis," she says. "That can be challenging because each child learns in his own way. But if we don't do that, a child can get lost."
Despite the hard work and occasional frustrations of the job, the satisfaction of watching a child grow emotionally and intellectually is worth all the effort, Ashbaugh says.
"I enjoy that moment when a student finally 'gets it,'" she says. "Or finally finding out what works for a specific child. I like to see the kids grow and develop into who they eventually become. Teaching isn't just about curriculum—it's about the kids."
Ashbaugh believes all children can learn and become successful, and that each possesses unique strengths and gifts.
"I believe in high expectations because children are capable of achieving whatever we expect of them," she says. "I stress this to my students and try to teach them that learning opportunities are a part of life and provide them with the chance to grow and change as a person."
Although Ashbaugh enjoys her role as a second-grade teacher, her aspirations have yet to be fully met.
"My goal is to be a reading specialist," she says. "I also would like to work with ADHD kids and those with learning disabilities. I feel that a lot of these kids are getting left out in our system."
Ashbaugh received both her Bachelor's Degree in Teaching and Master's Degree in Reading and Language Arts from Oakland University.
Married to husband Paul Ashbaugh, she is a big Elvis Presley fan and has a black kitten named 'Priscilla Anne.' She cherishes having had the opportunity to teach in a small town like Almont.
"The small-town atmosphere means closer relationships with parents and students, which makes for a more tight-knit community both in and out of the classroom," says Ashbaugh. "I feel lucky to be teaching in such a supportive community with wonderful parents and children."