(Wyoming, DE.) Melissa Rapp, a ninth-grade social studies teacher at Caesar Rodney High School in Camden, has been named Caesar Rodney School District’s Teacher of the Year for the 2016-2017 school year.
With 12 years of teaching experience, Melissa received a Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary Education: History from West Chester University in Pennsylvania and a Masters of Secondary Education: Teaching and Learning from Wilmington University in Delaware.
Following her graduation from West Chester in 2002, Melissa began her teaching career at Octorara Middle School in Atglen, PA. In 2004, she began her teaching career in Delaware, first at the Jefferson School in Georgetown and then at Caesar Rodney High School in 2006.
“Melissa Rapp is an excellent example of a quality teacher, not only at Caesar Rodney High School but throughout the school district,” said Caesar Rodney School District Superintendent Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald. “Her dedication to her students and to the community has helped make Caesar Rodney High School a very special place.”
“Melissa Rapp embodies the qualities that all great teachers aspire to be: enthusiastic, compassionate, and a phenomenal role model for public education,” said Dr. Sherry Kijowski, principal at Caesar Rodney High School. “Her classroom is such an exciting place to visit. Moreover, she has invested her heart and soul to the Caesar Rodney School District through a variety of events that have touched us all; whether it is the annual homecoming parade, the Pennies for Pumpkins drive to support breast cancer research or hosting district employee’s children through the annual Trunk or Treat event or the district-wide spring Easter egg hunt. Melissa could easily be called “Mrs. Caesar Rodney!”
When asked what factors influenced her to become a teacher, Melissa replied, “There is nothing more empowering than a sense of belonging. In high school, both my math teacher and history teacher made me feel like I belonged from the moment I walked into their classrooms.” Added Melissa, “I will never forget the day when I was asked to teach my teacher’s freshman algebra class. I felt empowered. This was what I was meant to do with my life. I clearly remember this experience because it was so validating; by giving me the chance to teach others, I had found my passion and calling in life.” Melissa continued, “My high school history teacher also inspired me to become an educator. When I chose to take AP U.S. History, a course with a highly competitive selection process, my teacher went to bat for me and fought for me to be included on the roster. When I asked he had fought to include me in the class, he said it was because I belonged there. I knew then that I wanted to create a classroom where my students would feel this same sense of belonging and value.”
The process for determining the district’s Teacher of the Year begins with recommendations from students, teachers, parents and administrators at each school building. Building teachers then vote to select the top five teachers. Those nominees then develop portfolios which are then reviewed and scored by a committee of parents, teachers and students from each school. From that process, one teacher in each building emerges as a district Teacher of the Year candidate.
A more in-depth portfolio is then created by each candidate which contains information including: educational history and professional development; awards and recognition; philosophy of teaching; community service; and letters of support. These portfolios are then read and scored independently by administrators, school board members, teachers, parents and students. From this process, candidates emerge as finalists.
Teams consisting of the district superintendent, building principals, teachers and parents then conduct classroom observations and interviews with the finalists. Individually, each team member awards an overall score for each candidate. After a discussion and review of all scores, the District Teacher of the Year is selected.
Melissa will now compete against 18 other school district Teacher of the Year nominees for the honor of becoming the State’s 2017 Teacher of the Year. That announcement will be made by Governor Jack Markell in October.