Melissa Hopkins is in her third year of teaching at Arthur Grade School after spending 15 years at Decatur’s Thomas Jefferson Middle School.

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During her 18 years as a middle school math teacher, Melissa Hopkins has learned that the best way to teach math isn’t necessarily through abstract formulas.

Instead, she puts math to practical use through fun activities, like her fictional Wiffle ball tournament. In her third year in Arthur after 15 years at Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Decatur, she’s pushing students of all abilities to new levels.

“Ms. Hopkins is an amazing teacher that works hard to support her students, differentiate lessons, provide an ear to listen, and push for student engagement,” Principal Andrew Peralta said.

I find my work important because ... I am able to help some pretty amazing students explore math every day. Math is not everyone’s favorite subject, to the point that it can create a mental roadblock for some. I try to show students it’s not just about memorizing formulas and solving equations. My goal is to help develop problem solvers that don’t give up.

I became a teacher because ... every day is different and challenging. Teaching junior high is never boring! Students are learning how to navigate life with more independence and that can be rough. I am blessed to work with an amazing group of educators at Arthur Grade School that do a great job of helping students with that transition.

My favorite lesson that I teach is ... definitely any lesson that deals with statistics and probability. It is so easy to tie these topics to the real world and things the kids enjoy. We play a Wiffle ball tournament with fictional characters. Students draft a fictional Wiffle ball team based on fictional batting averages, then participate in a simulated tournament. It’s a great way to learn the difference between theoretical and experimental probability and have fun at the same time.

My most fulfilling moment on the job is ... seeing the sense of pride on a student’s face when they finally accomplish a goal or solve a difficult problem without giving up. It’s even more rewarding to see them gain enough confidence to help others meet their goals as well.

Something else I’m passionate about is ... my family. I am blessed to have such a great family and support system. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without them!

My favorite teacher and subject to study in school was ... Mr. Moore at Central A&M High School. English wasn’t my best subject, but his class was always engaging and entertaining. My favorite subject to study was science.

I engage students during this strange time by ... allowing for student choice and creating a mixture of online, hands-on and traditional assignments. At the end of each unit, students compile all their activities and reflect on how well they feel like they understand the material. In addition to a unit test, students also create their own “Self Assessment,” where they prove what they learned in the unit in their own way.

Students get pretty creative! I’ve seen projects ranging from limericks, posters and artwork to student-created games, Kahoots, and online quizzes.

If I weren’t a teacher, I would probably ... work in data processing. I love working with spreadsheets and writing formulas to evaluate student data. That said, I am so glad I chose to be a teacher!

— Anthony Zilis

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