Melendez named SHS Teacher of the Year

Tina Melendez was given the honor of being named the 2011-12 SHS (Sweetwater High School) Teacher of the Year within the Sweetwater Independent School District.Melendez is a 9th-12th grade Spanish II teacher at SHS. Out of her eight total years of teaching, six of those have been with Sweetwater ISD. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree from McMurry University.Melendez has been a member of several groups, such as Campus Council, ATPE (Association of Texas Professional Educators) and a member of Alpha Chi. She has also been a Spanish Club and junior class sponsor, and is also an AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) site team member.She has additionally received several awards, including the Army Achievement Medal, Army Commendation Medal and the Liberation of Kuwait medal. Furthermore, Melendez is an active member of First United Methodist Church with the children's programs, involves herself in youth activities, and oversees the SHS Spanish Club to volunteer at local nursing homes.Melendez looks back on her childhood and recalls how she learned the importance of school. She was a second grader who had missed class due to sickness and needed help catching up."When I was a little girl my father [told] me that he could not help me with my homework," Melendez recollected. "My mother knew how much I wanted to be in school no matter the circumstances...[and] that moment made me realize that I would have to get an education."She remembers "playing teacher" with her siblings and cousins vividly, but also had other dreams growing up of perhaps becoming "a famous artist or attorney." In retrospect, she knows now that being a teacher is where God placed her.Melendez has several reasons for teaching--making a daily difference in her students' lives within her Spanish class and for her love of the Spanish language."But," she says, "my number one goal is to teach students to the best of my ability. Being an educator is a rewarding career even on your worst day."She enjoys seeing her students' faces light up and the change in body language when they grasp a concept. "This is such an amazing feeling because it is God's way of saying to me that I am doing what I am meant to do with my life."Beyond the classroom, Melendez knows that the knowledge she gives them will help them thrive as adults in the real world. She also strives to be "graceful, patient, encouraging, and as understanding as possible" to each of her students in her efforts of leading them toward success.Within her transition of being a student and now a teacher, Melendez understands that while she won't know it all, she should seek out answers for her students and motivate them in seeing the importance of education."Unfortunately for my parents, times were one stepped in to encourage or mentor them. Now, I believe that it is within me to encourage and mentor my students."