My mom, Lindsey Melvin, has been a part of the fabric of Collegiate’s Middle School my whole life, so she certainly has afforded me an inside view of how the Middle School operates. She attended Collegiate for all thirteen years of her childhood education, along with her brother and sister, and now sends her two children, my brother Ben Melvin (’20) and I, here as well. The variety of seats she has filled, as a student, member of the alumni, teacher, and parent, have prepared her well for her current position as Assistant Head of the Middle School – Student Progress. Her extensive experience has given her the ability to relate to both students and parents, allowing her to expertly fulfill her job.
Melvin graduated in 1988, right around when the Girls School and Boys School combined. This allowed her to get a feel for how the Middle School is mostly gender-separated today. Like many Collegiate students, she was involved in athletics during high school, including field hockey, soccer, and tennis, but lacrosse was her favorite. Upon graduating, Melvin went to the University of Virginia, where she majored in history. It was not until her third year that she decided she wanted to become a teacher, but it was too late to switch into the School of Education.
Melvin had first thought of being a teacher after spending her Community Engagement Week (which took place during sophomore year at Collegiate at the time) at the Cerebral Palsy Center of Richmond, an experience she cherished. Working as a camp counselor at Camp Greystone in western North Carolina, and completing an internship at Virginia Randolph, a former special-needs school in Henrico, confirmed her interest in teaching, so she decided to pursue that career path.
After college, Melvin immediately began at the New Community School, teaching sixth through tenth grade history and coaching tennis. There, she realized she loved helping people with learning difficulties, especially dyslexia, so several years later she pursued her Masters in Education in Learning Disabilities at Virginia Commonwealth University. Meanwhile, she felt like she needed to experience a public school, so she briefly taught third and fourth graders at Bowling Green Elementary School in Caroline County. Melvin said, “It was a good experience because I learned I much prefer middle and high school because I can relate to them more, have better conversations. You can teach more about situations rather than just the subject area.”
When her former job at New Community reopened, she returned and sponsored the service-learning program. In 1999 I was born, and my mom did not think she could devote enough attention to both her newborn and school, so she decided to stay home and tutor. That was actually how she planned to spend the following years as she raised a family. She wanted to spend as much time with her children and husband.
However, in the spring of 2000 she received a phone call from Carolyn Myers, who provided K-12 academic support at Collegiate at the time, about a new position as a learning specialist for a structured Middle School academic support program. Initially Melvin declined, but Myers was persistent. An interview led to a job offer from Middle School Head Charlie Blair, so Melvin agreed to take the position for one year. After that year passed, she decided to stay at Collegiate.
Her work in Academic Services suited her because she “loved helping students figure out how to be successful and helping teachers figure out how to help kids be successful.” However, Melvin missed teaching in a classroom and history, so she started to ease herself into seventh grade United States history classes. Wescott Lowe (‘18), a former student, said, “I loved having Mrs. Melvin as my seventh grade history teacher. She helped me feel so engaged in current events as we talked about the election of 2012, and I also loved how she assigned us fun projects.” In 2011, Melvin became a full-time history teacher and acquired the grade-level coordinator role, leaving her academic service days behind.
In 2014, she was offered the position as Assistant Head of the Middle School – Student Progress. This job entails helping each student experience as much success as possible, coordinating the report card process, organizing the Middle School calendar, helping to facilitate day-in and day-out Middle School events such as field trips and assemblies, and communicating with parents. She still teaches one section of history so she can keep the classroom dynamic, and she has led the photography club periodically. Elisabeth Jacobs, Middle School Administrative Assistant, said, “She does so many things for the Middle School I don’t know how it would work without her. She is always so calm and never frazzled.”
Melvin says one of her favorite aspects of her job is her “fishbowl office, because I get a day-to-day slice of Middle School life walking by me all the time.” Also, “even though it is cliché,” my mom says she loves “the sense of community at Collegiate. Whether or not we’re all working on a really fun event or all working on something really hard, every teacher pulls together and helps each other out.” She adds that the faculty in the Middle School have a terrific sense of humor, making her look forward to each day.
I asked my mom what makes her job important to the Middle School, and she replied, “When students get to Middle School they are changing classes each day and may have six or seven teachers. It’s really helpful to have one person who can step back and see the bigger picture and see how they are doing across the board and what they need.” In my experience, this attitude for helping students can be found in every teacher in the Middle School. All faculty at Collegiate have had a similar education, different experiences, and passion just like my mom, and I know from a personal level how deep this passion and drive runs. I am fortunate to spend so much time with a teacher so that I can understand their incredible importance.
Photos by Frances Melvin unless otherwise noted.