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Doing What’s Necessary: Melanie Evans, Dr. Kosmas Kayes Educator’s Scholarship Recipient 2018

It’s the beginning of a new year, which means we are preparing for the second semester of the school year with our program partners. As our program staff jumps back into the classroom, the Joseph Maley Foundation would like to extend a sincere thank you to all of the educators – the teachers, counselors, and administrators, who work so tirelessly to impact their students in a meaningful way.

At JMF, we know the power a great educator can have on a child’s life, and it is with this knowledge that we find ourselves honored once again to present the Dr. Kosmas Kayes Educator’s Scholarship to a deserving educator in the state of Indiana.

The Dr. Kosmas Kayes Educator’s Scholarship was created to honor the legacy of Kosmas Kayes, Ed.D., a lifelong educator, who was dedicated to improving the lives of others through learning. For more than forty years Dr. Kayes served the state of Indiana as a teacher, administrator, and mentor – shaping the lives of countless individuals who continue his legacy of integrity and service through education. Dr. Kayes based his decisions first and foremost on the wellbeing of children, which encompasses the mission of the Joseph Maley Foundation, “serving children of all abilities.” On account of his vision that every person deserves a good education, and his belief that education can change lives, JMF is proud to honor Dr. Kayes and award a deserving educator this scholarship.

Each year the winner of this award receives $500, which can be used to benefit the educator, (professionally or personally) or the students they serve. Educators must first be nominated by an administrator, colleague, parent, or student, after which the nominees are invited to submit a full application. Throughout the years, JMF has found that the applicants we receive are all exceptional in their own way. It can be difficult for our team of committee members to narrow down the pool of applicants to just ONE winner.

Our 2018 winner – Melanie Evans – agreed to answer a few questions about herself, the scholarship, and what she’s learned from her years of teaching. Melanie is an 8th grade math teacher at South Ripley Junior High in Versailles, Indiana.

The Dr. Kosmas Kayes Eduator’s Scholarship celebrates those who go above and beyond for their students every day.  As the 2018 winner of this scholarship, what do you feel drives you to be that exceptional educator in your student’s lives?

From a very early age, my parents instilled in me a strong work ethic.  From there, I always strive to do my best work. Teaching is just not a job; it is my passion.  What drives me to be an exceptional educator are my students. Every student who has entered my room over the last 24 years is important to me, and I treat them all as if they were my own children.  I tell them once you have sat in my classroom, you are one of my kids. Every student has a dream, and it is my job to help him or her travel the path to make that dream come true. There is no better profession in the world.

Was there an educator in your own life that inspired you to pursue the path of teaching? If so, what about them inspired you?

Several teachers in my life inspired me to be an educator, and it has now been an honor teaching alongside many of them as I am back at my alma mater.  My two music teachers, Mr. and Mrs. Holdsworth, have touched my life in a way that not only made me want to be an exceptional educator but also inspired me to be a better person.  Just this past week, I had the opportunity to sing the National Anthem with members of the Young Confederate Show Choir at a varsity basketball game. Over 75 singers came to honor Mrs. Holdsworth as she founded the group 50 years ago.  It was an experience I will never forget. Past students came from hours away in order to be there and sing for her one more time because they were inspired by the Holdsworths, just as I was. If I have the opportunity to impact just half of the people that the Holdsworths have touched over the years, I will feel very fortunate.

As the scholarship recipient you also proved yourself to be a mentor and an advocate to your students.  How do you do this?

As a mathematics teacher, I am challenged with the reality that many students don’t like math or have struggled with it at some point in their education.  My task is simple: make math fun!! Math is everywhere. I want to show the students that what they are learning is important. Now, will everyone need Algebra every day of their lives?  No, and I am honest with them about that. I want to make them a better person overall, and mathematics is just one part of that. I want my students to be successful in anything they choose.  If that means I have to stay after school for extra tutoring, I stay. If that means I need to meet with them on my prep period for additional practice, we meet. If that means I need to have a parent/teacher conference with the entire 8th grade team,  parents, student, and administration, we do so. I am there for them. I will fight for the rights of the student and do what is necessary to help them be successful. I am not successful until they are successful. I do what is necessary to fill the learning gaps and help them find the love for mathematics.

What is your favorite memory from your years of teaching?

In 2016, South Ripley Junior High School was named a “National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence” by the U.S. Department of Education.  Before this recognition, we had been named an “A” rated, 4-Star School by the Indiana Department of Education for several years, and although that was quite an honor, hearing that we had made national attention made me so proud to be a Raider.  We definitely pride ourselves on building relationships with students and knowing them and their data so well that every student can be successful. With our student population of more than 65% on free or reduced lunch, this honor was the highlight of my career.  

What do you hope your students will take with them when they leave your classroom – both at the end of each day and at the end of each year?

At the end of every day, I want my students to feel accomplished.  I encourage them to always be proud of everything they put their name on.  I want them to walk out of my room knowing that their teacher cares for them and if they need someone, I am in their corner.  By the end of the school year, I hope they have become better mathematicians and better people. I hope that when they look back on their education, my classroom was a place where they felt safe and inspired to be the best they can be.

How did you use the money received from the Dr. Kosmas Kayes Educator’s Scholarship?

With the money I received from the Dr. Kosmas Kayes Educator’s Scholarship, my advisory class purchased fleece material and hand tied sixteen blankets for Safe Passage.  Safe Passage is a domestic violence intervention and prevention center that serves Dearborn, Franklin, Jefferson, Ohio, Ripley, and Switzerland Counties in southern Indiana.  My students spent several hours preparing and tying the blankets, and then we presented them to Safe Passage on December 17th. It was a very worthwhile project, as one of my students stated, “This project impacted the community because it shows kindness and because of this; someone else might be kind and it repeats.”  Thank you for your kindness in offering this scholarship. It allowed me to build relationships with these students this year and pass some comfort and joy to some people who need a helping hand this holiday season.

Do you have any advice for a person who would like to pursue teaching as a career?

To anyone entering the educational field I would offer these thoughts.

  1. Every decision made should answer the following question: Is it in the best interest of the student?
  2. Life is not fair.  We are not all valedictorians.  Not everyone will learn in the same way and not everyone can earn an A, but everyone can grow.  Approach each day with a growth mindset. No matter how small, praise the student for their growth and they will continue working hard for you.  By the end of the year, you will both be proud of the accomplishment made.
  3. Find balance in your life.  Don’t take so much work home with you that you don’t spend time with your family.  Life is precious and never take a day for granted. The very day I found out I won this scholarship in May 2018, I rushed home to tell my husband of 23 years.  I was so excited, and he was so happy for me. That very night, he passed away of a heart attack. No warning, no goodbye. My two girls and I are trying to find our new normal, and I’m very grateful for each and every day we had with him. However, too many of my nights were spent grading, lesson planning, and preparing for the next school day.  It left me with missed opportunities of family time together on the farm, in the barn with the cattle, or sitting on the couch for family movie nights. Work hard at your job and enjoy your students, but don’t forget the most important part is at home waiting for you. Find your balance.

 

If you are interested in nominating an educator for the 2019 Dr. Kosmas Kayes Educator’s Scholarship please fill out the linked form below and follow mailing or emailing instructions. Nomination deadline is January 25, 2019.

2019 Dr. Kosmas Kayes Educator’s Scholarship Nomination Form