Melanie Dever, an eighth grade science and math teacher at in Dexter, has been named co-recepient of the "Teacher of the Year" award by the University of Michigan chapter of Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society.
The award is given to middle school and high school science teachers in Michigan who inspire a love of learning in their students and encourage and nurture students’ interest in science.
"I didn't know I was nominated, so it was a nice surprise when I received the letter informing me of the award," Dever said.
A former mechanical engineer for the Ford Motor Company, Dever has been teaching at Dexter Community Schools for the past six years. Dever received her undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from Brown University, two masters degrees from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a masters of education from U-M.
"I love teaching middle school students," she said. "You can tackle really complex work, but still have the joy of being around kids. It's a neat blend of hard work and child-like enthusiasm."
With increasing pressure from the state and federal government to graduate students well-versed in math and science, Dever said she feels confident Dexter is leading the pack.
"I think we're doing a really good job making the curriculum stronger. We're working on new ways to teach concepts in the classroom, but we're also making sure the students understand the content as opposed to turning the crank on a formula without understanding why they are doing it," she said.
To help students struggling with a particular lesson, Dever uploads her lectures to YouTube, which allows students to access them at their convenience.
"Students can watch lessons online, pause, and rewind from the comfort of their bedroom. When they come to class, we work together to solve problems and tackle the subject. It's turning the concept of classroom lectures upside down and the students are responding positively," she said.
Dever also incorporates new technology into her lesson plans as often as she can.
"Today's youth are very literate in technology. That is a very positive value for teachers, because we can integrate technology in the classroom with very little training," she said. "This week we used two websites and downloaded a science app for students to incoporate into the lesson."
On April 18 Dever will be presented with an award certificate and a check for $500 during a special ceremony at Webber's Inn in Ann Arbor. Dever will not be in attendance due to prior obligations, but said she uploaded an acceptance video on YouTube that will be played in her absence.
"I'm really glad to be a part of Dexter Community Schools," she said. "The school community and the community in general are just fantastic. The staff at Mill Creek is so good at working together collaboratively. The parents are very supportive of teachers in Dexter and they send us some awesome kids."