CALDWELL — A jubilant crowd of hundreds of cheering Syringa Middle School students helped honor Melyssa Ferro as Idaho’s 2016 Teacher of the Year Tuesday.
Ferro, a Caldwell High School graduate and 15-year district veteran, was recognized for excellence in teaching science, and for going above and beyond in her commitment to students and her community.
As Bruce Springsteen rock anthems blasted through the gymnasium speakers, Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra, district Superintendent Jodie Mills, State Board of Education member Linda Clark, local legislators, Idaho Education Association and Northwest Professional Educators leaders, a Canyon County commissioner and Ferro’s family gathered for the ceremony.
“(Ferro) believes in all of her students, no matter where they come from, no matter how rich and no matter how poor they are, that they have the best education in life,” Ybarra said. “She really supports STEM. She knows that is how we build relationships, and how we level the playing field for (students) to get the best opportunities.”
Ferro, who recently received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching, has taken leadership roles in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. She served as a table leader at this year’s STEM Summit Conference and presented at the STEM Innovations Conference hosted by the University of Idaho.
She was also previously honored as Caldwell’s Teacher of the Year.
Tuesday’s ceremony was billed as a surprise, and nobody spoiled the party. Decked out in a Boise State University football jersey and Converse sneakers, Ferro believed she was attending a school spirit assembly and college awareness week activities.
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Past Teacher of the Year recipients have addressed the Legislature on the needs of students and the state of public education, and Ferro said she would relish any chance to be a champion of Caldwell.
“I really want to be ‘The Lorax,’” said Ferro, referencing the 1971 Dr. Seuss children’s book. “I want to be the person who speaks for people who can’t speak for themselves. So many of Caldwell’s students don’t have the ability financially, don’t the ability socioeconomically, don’t have the ability language-wise, don’t have the ability education-wise, to speak for themselves.”
Ferro is also looking to advocate for equitable education opportunities across the state, as well as increased partnerships and resources.
“My most valuable role is to be an advocate to speak for (my students),” Ferro said. “I am the person who has the platform to go out there and tell the legislators that education is valuable. My students have potential. My students are worth an investment. If I have the opportunity to do anything, I think it’s to be a Lorax for public education and to remind people that education is really the cornerstone of what our entire democracy is built on.”
Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell, said Ferro was highly deserving of the honor, saying she regularly invested extra effort and time helping out one of his children. During the ceremony, Rice walked up to Ferro, congratulated her, and whispered that the Rice household had long considered Ferro to be their own Teacher of the Year.
As part of her award, Ferro received a $1,000 check from the state. The state will also pay for her to travel to January’s Teaching, Leading, Learning Convention in Texas and to several events in Washington D.C., including a ceremony at the White House, State Department of Education spokesman Jeff Church said.
Find out more about what makes Ferro stand out by revisiting Idaho Education News’ Sept. 1 multimedia feature about Ferro.