Turner, who teaches first graders, said despite being a 15-year teaching veteran, she would have never predicted she would be named her school’s top teacher.
“I was very, very surprised and honored,” said the 2010 West Jasper Elementary School Teacher of the Year.
On Tuesday, Turner learned the Jasper City Schools had named her its elementary teacher of the year, too.
“We’re very proud of Melanie Turner,” said West Jasper principal Rita Pilling. “Mrs. Turner works very hard every day to challenge her students to do their very best.”
Turner, who moved to Walker County as a youngster, originally studied nursing in college. However, after earning her degree, Turner decided she was not suited for the medical field.
“I just knew that was not what I wanted to do,” said Turner, who admits speculations about future job opportunities in the field influenced her decision to study nursing.
“My family wanted me to be a nurse because the nursing field was just wide open at that time,” said Turner, who eventually chose to listen to the career predictions of her grandmother who she calls Nana Jean.
“She’s the one who really encouraged me to pursue what I wanted to be happy at,” said Turner, who returned to college almost immediately after earning her nursing degree. She studied at Walker College and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Turner said she believes it is important that teachers recognize that students learn in different ways. She said it’s teachers’ jobs to figure out the best way to reach different children in their classroom.
“I want them to know they can be anything they want to be; they just have to work hard and study hard to get to that point,” she said.
Despite being a classroom veteran, the 38-year-old teacher said this is the first year she has taught first grade. She said she has enjoyed the experience. “I get to see them blossom more,” she said about instructing students at the beginning of their academic careers. “I can see more changes because I can actually see them learn how to read and learn how to add and subtract, and it’s really rewarding.”
When Turner has some free time, she enjoys reading.
When she was teaching third grade, she got up to speed on J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series because all her students were reading them.
“I’ve read all her books,” said Turner, who believes her hobby helps her to encourage kids in her class to read. “They could see us excited about reading and it really changed the way they looked at reading, too.”
Turner said she enjoys making cards using her Cricut Personal Electronic Cutter when she has some time off. “It’s the most fabulous thing in the world,” said Turner, who is an active member of Northside Baptist Church.
Other teachers of the year at Jasper City Schools are Teresa Kitchens, Walker High School; Brenda Stepp, Maddox Middle School; Dionne Nelson, T.R. Simmons Elementary School; and Meagan Fields, Memorial Park Elementary School.
The teachers of the year will be honored during the school board’s January meeting. A profile photograph of each teacher of the year will be displayed for the next year in the meeting room at Jasper City School’s central office where the Jasper City Board of Education holds its monthly meetings.
As the districts’ elementary teacher of the year, Turner is now eligible to become the region’s teacher of the year.