Most fifth-graders don’t consider learning about the U.S. Constitution fun unless they’ve had Sandy Mellencamp at Seymour-Redding Elementary School as a teacher.
In his social studies classes at the Seymour Middle School Sixth Grade Center, Matthew McCarthy emphasizes cultural understanding and appreciation of diversity when teaching students about the world around them.
Seymour High School family and consumer sciences teacher Jessica Floyd knows there’s no better way to learn about her students than through food.
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All three Seymour Community Schools educators have made a positive impact in the lives of students by turning curriculum into fun, hands-on lessons and teaching students how to apply what they learn to what they do.
For their efforts in the classroom and contributions to the field of education, the Seymour Chamber of Commerce has recognized Mellencamp, McCarthy and Floyd as Teachers of the Year.
They were nominated by co-workers, friends and the public and were chosen by the chamber’s education committee.
On Thursday night, the three received their awards and were recognized during the 89th annual chamber dinner at Pewter Hall in Brownstown.
Mellencamp said she was honored to represent Seymour elementary teachers in receiving the award, even though she says many of her colleagues are more worthy.
“I am not the most talented teacher in this corporation or in my school, and on some days, I’m not even the most talented teacher in my own classroom,” she said in reference to how much she learns from her students.
Teaching U.S. history and writing skills, Mellencamp said she loves helping young people develop their natural talents and discover new interests.
“Recently, a shy student beamed with pride when I pointed out his flair for writing original ideas, while another student admitted that she had never enjoyed reading about history until this year,” Mellencamp said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
This marks her 35th year of teaching. After graduating from Indiana University in 1984, she worked as a substitute teacher.
In 1986, she was hired full time as a sixth grade teacher at Margaret R. Brown Elementary School and then moved to Seymour Middle School when the sixth grade wing was added there a few years later. She spent 20 years at SMS but in 2007 requested a change and became a fifth grade teacher at Redding, where she has been ever since.
“I was one of those kids who enjoyed school,” she said. “It just seemed natural to continue to do what I enjoyed and try to find a way to make learning fun for my students.”
Having fun and being able to laugh are two of the most important lessons she has learned from former and current colleagues, and she makes it a point to share that knowledge in her classroom.
“Teaching has taught me that approaching each day with a sense of humor can be the remedy for many ills in this world,” she said. “As long as I don’t take myself too seriously, I can manage to conquer just about any of life’s challenges.”
Her biggest influence, though, was her older sister, Shelley, who introduced Mellencamp to imaginative play, classic children’s literature and the power of laughter.
“I’ve always tried to emulate her sense of playfulness in my teaching,” Mellencamp said. “When she became ill with cancer and passed away three and a half years ago, the world lost the best teacher I’ve ever known.”
Mellencamp encourages people to thank teachers for all they do for kids.
“The strength of our community depends on the strength of public education,” she said. “Public school educators are dedicated to teaching every child who enters our classrooms.”
In his 36th year in the classroom, McCarthy said it is a great honor to be recognized by his peers.
He started teaching at the old Redding Elementary in 1984 and credits his decision to go into education to growing up in a teaching family. His mother was a second grade teacher for more than 40 years.
“I have always been around teaching, was given the chance to help out in classrooms while in high school and have enjoyed working with students at all age levels,” he said.
McCarthy said over the years, he has had the opportunity to work with many wonderful teachers, administrators and support staff, and he thanks them for all of the support and encouragement they’ve shown.
His daily interaction with his students and colleagues is what he loves most about teaching.
“It is nice to work in a profession where you look forward to coming to work each day, where you are with other professionals who share the same compassion as you and where you like to think you are making a difference for the children in our community,” he said.
Being a teacher has taught McCartney not everyone learns at the same pace, so it’s important to be patient with all students, he said.
He encourages any high school student who is interested in helping the community but unsure of a career path to consider teaching.
“I hope they will find it as fulfilling and rewarding as I have,” he said.
Floyd is the youngest of the award winners, but her enthusiasm and eagerness to help students succeed have made her colleagues take notice.
“It is a great honor to be recognized among such a wonderful group of people,” she said.
Besides teaching nutrition and wellness, textiles and interior design, she also helped coach the high school’s first unified track and field team, which pairs special needs students with student-athletes to compete together.
“There are special opportunities to make a difference in our community,” she said. “I would have probably never had the chance to be part of something so special as this team if it was not for being in the school system with these students every day.”
She started teaching at SHS after graduating from college and loved it so much she talked her husband, Aaron Floyd, into moving to Seymour and teaching at the high school with her. He is now the assistant principal at Seymour-Redding Elementary School.
Although most people have a reason or story for how they got into teaching, Floyd said she doesn’t.
“I sort of just fell into this profession after high school,” she said. “I have always enjoyed school, and I was very interested in the consumer sciences.”
Her favorite aspect of the job is getting a front-row seat into watching her students grow and develop into adults.
“In the four years they are in the building, I get to watch them mature into contributing members of our community,” she said.
But teaching also can be a learning experience, she added.
“Over the years, my students have taught me a great deal,” she said. “I have had the wonderful opportunity in the past to have students from all over the world. They love to share their favorite foods from their home country. Through this sharing, we learn about their culture, geography and economy.”
Besides the support of her parents, who made it possible for her to go to college to become a teacher, and her husband, Floyd said she owes a lot to her teachers in high school.
“I take those positive experiences from teachers in my past as I plan activities for my students,” she said. “I really appreciate all the love and support I have received over the years. I couldn’t imagine being able to do what I do without that level of support.”
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Winners at the 89th annual Seymour Chamber of Commerce awards dinner
Teachers of the Year: Sandy Mellencamp (Seymour-Redding Elementary School), Matthew McCarthy (Seymour Middle School Sixth Grade Center) and Jessica Floyd (Seymour High School)
Rising Star Award: Jeremy Wischmeier and Curt Schleibaum
Small Business of the Year: Schneider Nursery
Corporate Citizen of the Year: JCB
Citizenship Award: Craig Luedeman