-by Svetla Tomanova
In April, the Teacher of the Year committee revealed the finalists of the Virginia Beach City Public Schools’ 2023 Citywide Teacher of the Year. Today, we’re celebrating the fourth finalist. The citywide winner will be announced May 6, 2022.
Melinda Pezzella teaches second graders at Trantwood Elementary School. In addition to being celebrated as Trantwood’s Teacher of the Year, she was also the recipient of Trantwood’s Reading Teacher of the Year award for 2023.
“Mrs. Pezzella is truly a model of teaching excellence,” noted Trantwood Principal Lori Hasher. “Students and staff find her to be an efficient, effective and exemplary educator.”
While Pezzella’s parents put education as a number-one priority, it was two middle school teachers who set the stage for her to become an educator. Mrs. Stoots and Mrs. Ford not only kept young Melinda from “getting into trouble,” but they also led open and genuine conversations with and influenced her future. She became undeterred in her desire one day to work with children and hopefully make the same impact on students. When she started her professional career, she often found herself reminiscing about her lodestars.
“She is a true leader and is often sought out by her colleagues due to her expertise,” Principal Hasher added.
Pezzella is a pivotal member of Trantwood Elementary School Principal Advisory Committee, Instructional Leadership Team, Responsive Classroom, PBIS Team and Student Response Team. She supports the school’s PTA events and builds relationships with her students by attending their after-school activities and sporting events such as gymnastics, dance and swim meets.
“Melinda’s students know she cares about them, as evidenced by her trips to visit their homes before the school year and her willingness to give of her time to attend their extracurricular activities,” explained Lisa Lee, Trantwood school counselor.
Knowing from a firsthand experience how important it is to provide “quality learning,” Pezzella engages students with innovative opportunities to connect learning objectives to their lives and the environment through Problem Based Learning and Global Goals. Problem Based Learning is connected to many math and science objectives and allows learning to be “authentic and innovative.” For example, in the Oyster Restoration Project, students collaborated and acted like scientists and environmental advocates. This allowed them to transcend their learning beyond the classroom.
“Mrs. Pezzella’s love of children and nurturing their education is genuine,” said Courtney and Matthew Manship in their recommendation letter. “Truly, we could not have asked for a more understanding, kind, nurturing and patient educator for our son.”
Pezzella’s lessons are engaging, and that is evident in her students’ participation in the Donate a Book, Change a Life initiative. Her class collected new and used books that were later transported to an African school in Ghana. The students learned about geography but, more importantly, this act of kindness served as a lesson in empathy and caring.
Pezzella believes that “a curriculum tied to real-world experiences will open the door to life-long learning and build future empathetic learners and critical thinkers.”