National Teacher of the Year

2004 National Teacher of the Year

NameKathleen M. Mellor
StateRhode Island

School Information

School Address
Davisville Middle SchoolNorth Kingstown, RI
Teaching AreaEnglish as a Second Language
Teaching Level6-8

Rhode Island English-as-a-Second-Language Educator Named National Teacher of the Year at White House Ceremony

"The success of our schools depends on our essential partnership with families and the community. This partnership must be aware of educational and social issues, and share a vision of and act upon what can be accomplished together. Failure to educate all students is everyone's failure. We must share in the responsibility or share the repercussions." -Kathy Mellor

Washington, D.C., April 21, 2004 - Taking her father's advice that she stay in school so her hands wouldn't look like his, Kathy Mellor has taken that "defining moment" in her life to heart as she works with students.

"In spite of their lack of education because they had to leave school early to support their families, my parents instilled the value of one in me and spoke openly about how important school was," she says. "'A house without books is like a house without windows,' my father said, and I have taken that perspective and built on it to reach beyond the classroom and into the community which so tremendously affects it."

For this philosophy and helping her students feel constantly engaged in learning, Mellor was named 2004 National Teacher of the Year by President George W. Bush at a White House ceremony on April 21, 2004. Also recognized at this event were the 2004 State Teachers of the Year.

The National Teacher of the Year Program, a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), is sponsored by Scholastic Inc., the world's largest publisher and distributor of children's books. The program focuses public attention on teaching excellence and is the oldest and most prestigious awards program for teachers. Mellor, the fifty-fourth National Teacher of the Year and the first to represent Rhode Island, begins a year as a full-time national and international spokesperson for education on June 1, 2004.

As an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher at Davisville Middle School in North Kingstown, Rhode Island for 19 years, Mellor has been at the forefront of designing and implementing a district ESL program since she began teaching there. As she describes it, "Because the program deals with the many variables students present, allows ESL children to stay in their home schools, and allows teachers to do a great deal of cross-content collaboration, the program is cognitively demanding and students aren't isolated from their American peers so a great deal of natural language acquisition occurs.

"It is a developmental language program which provides each student with one to three periods of instruction per day according to the child's proficiency level in listening, speaking, reading and writing," she continues. "The amount of service decreases as the level of English and amount of mainstreaming increases. Instruction combines language and literacy instruction and some support in the content area subjects. The program teaches students the English language, its communicative features and literacy skills necessary to learn through English and achieve academically. Applicable Rhode Island English Language Arts standards are used in goal-setting and grading, and the scope and sequence of the program parallels natural language development taking the students through all five proficiency levels.

"Consequently, instruction is better able to address differences in age, educational background, learning style, and rate. Parental involvement is nurtured, leading to the development over time of a strong parent-teacher rapport. Students are brought up to grade level and fully exited from the program using a variety of measures to indicate their readiness to compete and achieve alongside their native-English speaking peers," Mellor says.

One of her ESL colleagues in North Kingstown, Patricia Kirwan, describes Mellor as "single handedly developing the most successful ESL program we have and being a tireless advocate for the ESL student population and their families. Kathy's deep ties to the ESL community are evidenced by the many invitations she receives to attend special cultural events inside these families' homes," Kirwan says. "These families yearn to give whatever they can back to the woman who has deeply cared for, respected and loved their children. Over the years our parents have risked coming into our schools because of the relationships Kathy has fostered. Despite their limited English they come because they know they'll be safe, welcomed and respected."

And Kamer Kosereisoglu, a parent of one of her former students, says her daughter's English improved "unbelievably" in just one year with Mellor because of her high but realistic expectations for students. "She knows how difficult it is to adjust to a new culture, learn another language and be successful in school," Kosereisoglu says. "Mrs. Mellor was always there for us and I was able to ask her anything, school-related or not. She always encourages students and their families to speak their first languages at home and not to forget their culture."

Mellor was born in Providence, Rhode Island and graduated from Cranston High School East in Cranston, Rhode Island. In 1970 she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from Rhode Island College. She earned a master's degree in education from Rhode Island College in 1977 and a Masters of Art in Teaching degree, with an emphasis on ESL and cross-cultural studies, from Brown University in 1989.

Mellor was a substitute teacher in the Cranston, Rhode Island School Department from 1970-74. Between 1974 and 1980 she was a stay-at-home mother to her three children, David, Adam and Paige, and spent part of that time working on her master's degree and beginning her course work in ESL. She was an ESL teacher at the International Institute of Rhode Island from 1980-85 and a continuing education teacher in the Rhode Island College English Department from January 1985 to June 1986. Her work in the North Kingstown School Department began as a consultant for ESL between April and June of 1985 before beginning at Davisville Middle School. Mellor has taught full-time for 24 years.

The other 2004 National Teacher of the Year finalists are Keil E. Hileman, II, a social studies/ museum studies teacher at Monticello Trails Middle School in Shawnee, Kansas; Jason Fulmer, a third-grade teacher at Redcliffe Elementary School in Aiken, South Carolina; and Dennis Griner, a social studies/audio-visual communications teacher at Garfield-Palouse High School in Palouse, Washington.

View the complete candidate application for Mrs. Mellor.