Teacher of the Month: Melissa Tolman

By Colin Anderson
Article provided by Gig Harbor Living Local

For Melissa Tolman, turning negative feelings on a particular subject into positive ones is something that brings her great joy. Tolman recently wrapped up her 13th year as an educator with the last four as a fifth grade teacher at Purdy Elementary, where she handles multiple subjects like science, social studies and writing. One of the more challenging subjects for many of her students is math. Problems become a little tougher to solve and some kids reach the point of complete frustration, but Tolman doesn’t let them give up.

“I love helping them see they are all capable of being mathematicians and can all be good at it,” she said. “I pride myself in the fact that most of my students now love math and would say it’s their favorite subject.”

Tolman uses real-world applications in her math curriculum to show children that math is a skill they will use and need on a daily basis throughout their lives.

“Math is my favorite subject to teach, and I enjoy seeing students make connections to real-world situations and to be able to explain their thinking,” she said. “I think it’s important for them to see how they can use the math they are learning and the importance of it.”

While many lessons stick, having a great impact on a young person’s future is also something that brings Tolman great pride. Several years ago she was teaching kindergarten and was brought up to first grade the following year. Many of the kids she had in kindergarten were with her again. A parent of one of those children, now in ninth grade, reached out to her to say she was her all-time favorite teacher and would love to see her at high school graduation in a couple years.

“It warmed my heart to know she still remembered me after all those years and felt strongly enough to reach out to me and let me know how much I meant to them,” said Tolman.

Whether stuck on a math problem, proper spelling or grammar and punctuation, Tolman always encourages her students to work through it—and not give up.

“I try to help my students take these challenges on as learning opportunities. I want my students to know they can achieve whatever they put their minds to, as long as they put in hard work and practice,” she said.

By teaching young minds perseverance through adversity, Tolman hopes to have a lasting impact on all of her students so that they might find success in whatever they choose in life.

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