We (staff at Slate Canyon Youth Center) feel privileged to nominate Miss Melanie Bliss for the Teacher Feature Award.
Melanie Bliss is an extraordinary teacher. She teaches students in short and long term care at Slate Canyon Youth Center for Slate Canyon Academy. Melanie is constantly seeking ways to improve educational opportunities for youth in this setting - serving young people with a wide variety of educational abilities and needs. She strives for excellence and expects it from her students. She does this in myriad ways and with creativity and passion. No opportunity for learning is too small or off limits. Melanie teaches history, but she also does everything else. She collaborates with outside resources so students may participate in unique educational programming such as Film Spark, bicycle repair with the Bicycle Collective, music lessons (guitar, drums, and piano), art, woodworking, and screen printing. She is an integral part of the student's support teams, attends their team meetings and ensures students, their families and teams are aware of academic progress, needs, and accomplishments.
Melanie works tirelessly - she is at the facility evenings and most weekends, she works through the school breaks to ensure that even though there is a break in the formal school schedule students continue to have learning opportunities. She facilitated a move to year-round school to better serve students. Melanie supports the athletic programs and directs the annual Slate Canyon Academy Variety Show which showcases students talents; she assists them in developing talents they didn't know they had - young men who may never had participated in any type of extracurricular activity sing, dance, act, share poetry and raps, and play musical instruments for family members, staff and community partners. The impact this has on family and team members is extremely special.
Slate Canyon Academy is blessed with an incredible group of teachers who choose to work with this special population of young people, Melanie is the heart and soul of our teaching staff.
The following are additional submissions showcasing Melanie's teaching excellence from Slate Canyon Youth Center employees who observe Melanie's work on a daily basis:
I would like to nominate Melanie Bliss for her excellent work at Slate Canyon Academy. Melanie does much more than teach history and coordinate scholastic services for our youth. She donates her time to ensure that our youth have ample opportunities for learning and developing a wide range of talents. It is widely acknowledged at our facility that Melanie puts in many extra hours and energy to help the youth. She enlists the help of volunteers in the community to provide training in woodshop, guitar, bicycle repair, etc. She recently donated countless hours in helping our boys put on a variety show for their families, in which they sang, danced and acted. She does this every year and it helps our boys step out of their comfort zones and collaborate with one another to produce a wonderful event that their parents can be proud of. Melanie works with challenging youth who have often experienced very little academic success. She works with them individually and collaborates with the team to make sure we are addressing all their needs.
Dear Evaluation Committee,
It is with great pleasure I nominate Melanie Bliss for consideration to receive recognition for her outstanding service, exemplary leadership, and tireless efforts in teaching, educating, and empowering our youth. Melanie is committed, involved, and cares deeply about the success of our youth. She utilizes every resource available to find different programs that can help enhance the skills and talents of our youth. Melanie implemented and oversees our bicycle program. This a class where our youth get hands on experience learning how to repair and maintain bicycles. Our youth work in conjunction with a local bike collective where our youth repair old bikes and they are sent to the collective to be sold. Melanie also helps the youth develop their talents. Every year she helps the youth put on a variety show where youth are encouraged to share their special talents and abilities. She works weeks on end to help our youth tap into talents some of them never knew they had and encourages others share what makes them special through poetry, song, dance, art, and drama. They work together and then perform for their families and others. Melanie is also involved in our sports program. Whenever we play at our home site she is the first to volunteer to help with providing refreshments for not only our team but the opposing team as well. When our youth are struggling with becoming eligible because of grades Melanie is always willing to help on a moment’s notice. There have been many times when I have contacted her last minute for help with a youth or project and although she has other engagements, being the super woman that she is she somehow manages to find a way to make time to help. Melanie is also a model of patience. All of the youth she helps are at risk youth who each come with their own set of challenges. Melanie has been able to meet those challenges head on through her compassionate and selfless teaching. I have witnessed first-hand her abilities to engage the youth and challenge them to step outside their personal comforts zones to ask questions and participate in classroom discussions. I have seen youth who have previously struggled in a particular subject excel because she is willing to extend herself and work beyond the point of frustration in order to help a youth.
Melanie is also a great co-worker. She is always objective and never seeks recognition for what she does. She is always looking to lift those around her and make them feel special or assist them. She is dedicated and many times will volunteer to come in on her time off to help the youth with school work or other programming without any expectation of compensation. I strongly urge you to award her for not only her service but also her countless acts of kindness. She is an invaluable asset to our team and we are extremely blessed/lucky to have her. Her work ethic and dedication to her craft is unmatched and unwavering. I am barely scratching the surface with what I have mentioned as to all the things Melanie does. She does all these things along with her responsibilities as an educator. She is truly deserving of this recognition.
Since my arrival here at Slate Canyon YC, Melanie has always been one that continuously works hard to make a difference in the lives of our youth. She puts out a 100% effort with her teaching and is always here on the weekends preparing lessons or some sort of activities and events for our youth. She has supported our sports league by ordering supplies and equipment that will help meet the needs of our youth in every sport that we participate in. I have observed her here every weekend and she continues to do extra work and time with the school's biggest event of the year for their Variety Show. I can go on and on about the things that Melanie has done here in school and for our program. I appreciate her very much and am grateful that she is part of our TEAM here at Slate Canyon Youth Center.
Decisions made in the moment, always have lasting consequences. One of those consequences for the young people in our communities is time spent away from the comforts of home in detention. Slate Canyon Youth Center is one such detention center. While all of the staff at Slate have worked tirelessly to better the lives of the youth who cross Its doors, Miss Melanie goes above and beyond her call as "just a teacher" to ensure that residents feel heard, have confidence in their academic abilities and shows them that learning can be fun.
Miss Melanie's classroom is one where students feel free to ask questions. She opens lessons up for discussion. She understands that US History and Government classes are an opportunity to draw parallels between the past and present. For youth whose whole focus is on themselves, it can be a powerful reminder of the opportunities we have been afforded through the sacrifice of others.
The majority of our youth have found acceptance in what enjoyments can be given to them now as opposed to the comfort a solid education can give them later. Youth come to Slate having different levels of learning and lack confidence in their skills to build onto existing knowledge. Miss Melanie's ease in her classroom allows youth with varying educational backgrounds to thrive. She allows the youth to gain confidence in their skills by acknowledging that she is not the only teacher in the classroom. She provides opportunities for youth to love learning.
When you leave the classroom smiling, something is right. Miss Melanie is fun. She has often taught whole lessons in a different accent to draw students in. She learned to play the guitar to help youth find their musical talents. She has a way to teach the bill of rights that help the youth remember them and to explain what each bill is. If I had the appropriate words to express my gratitude and awe for this woman I would. She has changed the educational culture at our facility and has raised the bar for those who currently teach at Slate and for the years to come.