2019 Citywide Teacher of the Year

Melissa Follin

2019 Citywide Teacher of the Year
Melissa Follin

Melissa Follin, a third-grade teacher at Old Donation School (ODS), is the 2019 Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) Citywide Teacher of the Year. Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence made the announcement at the annual Teachers of the Year dinner May 3 at the Westin Virginia Beach Town Center.

Follin has been teaching for 14 years, all with VBCPS, and she was previously named the Virginia Association for the Gifted Region 2 Teacher of the Year in 2015.

"Melissa Follin is a student's dream," wrote Dr. Kelly Hedrick, ODS principal, in her nomination of Follin. "She loves her students enough to challenge them daily, support them through academic dissonance and believe in them until they believe in themselves and realize their potential."

Hedrick added, "As Virginia Beach Citywide Teacher of the Year, Melissa would provide a model for all teachers who seek to find the best in all children, cultivate their success and guide them to accomplishments they cannot yet imagine."

Follin grew up understanding the hard work and dedication needed to be a teacher. Both her mother and father taught in VBCPS, and has called them "the single most important factor that paved the way for my teaching career."

Melissa Follin

"One could say teaching is in by blood," Follin wrote in her Teacher of the Year application. "Seeing their commitment and dedication to VBCPS became something I wanted to use my talents to pursue as well, all while understanding from the start the countless hours of hard, yet rewarding work ahead."

After graduating college, Follin's original plan to "teach kindergarten for 30 years" was quickly altered. The first teaching position she was offered was for first grade. She has since earned her endorsement in gifted education and has been a gifted cluster teacher and a gifted resource teacher. Although she enjoyed being a gifted resource teacher for several years, she wanted to be back in the classroom, "There's nothing like it," Follin wrote.

This year, Follin returned to the third grade, "which is my favorite grade level to teach so far," she wrote. "I love the independence students are gaining at this age, but also the young children who they still are."

In addition to her time in the classroom, Follin devotes her time to support the school's Planning Council, Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and STEM Cohort. She also serves as the ODS school improvement coordinator, maker expo mentor, Eco-Friends club sponsor, sustainable school liaison, Lynnhaven River Now committee member and as a volunteer tutor and member of the school's math, leadership and learning teams.

This year, thanks to a sponsorship with Southern Auto Group, Follin received a free 2017 FIAT 500X Trekking for a year. During the dinner celebration, hosted by the Virginia Beach Education Foundation (VBEF), she also received a $200 Massage LuXe spa package, a week's stay in an Orlando villa, $500 from McDonald's Restaurant owned and operated by Hugh Fard, $1,000 from the VBEF and $1,000 from the Department of Teaching and Learning to spend on instructional supplies for her classroom.

Follin was selected as the 2019 VBCPS Citywide Teacher of the Year from an initial pool of 87 Teachers of the Year. The selection committee visited the classrooms of and interviewed five finalists to determine the citywide winner. The other finalists are: Kathleen Trace, an English teacher at Salem High School; Rebecca Robbins, kindergarten teacher at Diamond Springs Elementary School; Gregory Hogan, a seventh-grade social studies teacher at Plaza Middle School; and Katherine Anderson, an English teacher at Ocean Lakes High School. Videos featuring each Teacher of the Year finalist are available on the division's Great Dreams Need Great Teachers website.