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Mid-Del teacher of the year helps students find light of confidence

Melissa Lightfoot, sixth-grade math teacher and Mid-Del Teacher of the Year, pays it forward.
By Nasreen Iqbal, Staff Writer Published: July 15, 2014

When Jordan Edwards was in Melissa Lightfoot’s sixth-grade math class, she thought her teacher was cheerful, honest, friendly and smart.

“Life changer” is what she calls her now, having retraced her steps in search of that “lightbulb” moment when her path to success became clear and her future began.

“The plans that I’m carrying out now, the plans I have for my future, I made them all in her class,” said Edwards, 20, a college student with plans to study nursing or early childhood education. Without Lightfoot’s help, she said, she never would have graduated from high school.

Lightfoot, 36, who teaches at Kerr Middle School, is the Midwest City-Del City school district’s teacher of the year. The award is a first in her nine-year teaching career.

“I was a very defiant child,” said Edwards, Lightfoot’s former student. “I also have a slight learning disability that requires one-on-one attention. Most teachers don’t have the time for that, but she made time for me. She stuck it out for me.”

The extra time and the confidence Lightfoot had in Edwards helped her pass the class and dominate her weakest subject: math.

Once Edwards could do math, she knew she could do anything, Lightfoot said.

“I became a teacher to give confidence to students who have none,” Lightfoot said.

Sharing the light

There was a time when Lightfoot was one of those students.

“As a child, I struggled with reading,” she said. “I understood the feeling of embarrassment and inadequacy among my peers. I tried to dodge every situation where I was supposed to read out loud. I didn’t have any confidence in my abilities, so I can identify firsthand how it feels to have fear cripple the spirit, have sweaty palms and the feeling of a frog in the throat due to a lack of confidence.”

Lightfoot’s lightbulb moment was courtesy of Tracy Foor, her high school math teacher.

“He would stop what he was doing in between classes to look me in the eye and explain something about which I was unsure,” Lightfoot said. “I shaped and molded my own educational philosophies based on this great teacher.”

The confidence Foor gave to Lightfoot is what Lightfoot hopes to pass on to her students. She says gaining knowledge is only half the battle.

“I believe my greatest contribution in education is providing every student with a learning environment filled with creative lessons that build understanding as well as academic vocabulary while setting high expectations and challenging my students,” she said.

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