Fairmont Schools honors a teacher | News, Sports, Jobs
FAIRMONT– Melinda Stewart, a Spanish teacher and English instructional coach at Fairmont High School, has been named the 2022-2023 Teacher of the Year at Fairmont-area schools. Stewart has taught at Fairmont since beginning her teaching career in 1994.
His nomination letter cited Stewart’s love for students and his outstanding commitment to learning, equity and professional relevance. Stewart will receive a plaque celebrating his achievement at Fairmont’s Teacher of the Year celebration on Dec. 5.
Stewart grew up in Maple Grove and majored in Spanish and Latin American studies at the University of Minnesota-Morris. She got her study permit and went on to earn her master’s degree at St. Mary’s University. She later studied English language learning and reading instruction at Mankato State University and was certified to teach Spanish through the College in the Schools program at the University. University of Minnesota at Northwest Nazarene University.
When Stewart learned she was nominated, her first instinct was to turn down the nomination because she felt her success as a teacher was only made possible through a collaborative process with other instructors.
“At first it was a very uncomfortable feeling to be honored…because no one does this work alone,” said Stewart.
This reluctance was only overcome by the encouragement of her fellow teachers.
“A colleague of mine…said to accept it as the gift that it is, (to) allow others to give you gifts as you do them…and it changes me to talk about my students,” said Stewart.
Stewart said working with students was the main reason she chose to work as a teacher.
“It doesn’t matter who enters my class; I love the ability to teach each student not just as a class but as an individual,” said Stewart.
As a language teacher, Stewart said she’s been able to connect with students that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.
“You can see them changing and growing. Since I have been teaching the language, the central element that students talk about is themselves. They talk about their dreams, they talk about their families, they talk about their friends, they talk about who they are and what matters to them, so it opens a door and gives me the opportunity to get to know them,” said Stewart.
Stewart thinks learning another language is difficult for many of her students and appreciates their willingness to make mistakes in her classroom.
“That has been the most fun part of working with the students for me. seeing them trust me enough to be vulnerable with me and believe that I will take care of them,” said Stewart.
At first glance, Stewart’s teaching helps students become fluent in another language, but she sees a deeper meaning in it.
“For me, having the ability to teach a language, whether I teach English or Spanish, is to provide students with a tool to access new learning”, said Stewart.
In addition to improving a student’s ability to communicate and understand the world, Stewart believes that learning a language also helps students understand different points of view and value diversity.
“We get to have conversations about (how) different means different, different isn’t good or bad, it’s just different; it’s a new way of looking at things. This has probably been the most amazing thing about working with learners; see their joy, see when that moment comes,” said Stewart.
Stewart continues to keep in touch with many of her former students, some of whom are now her colleagues from Fairmont area schools.