Awakin Calls » Melissa Stephens

Melissa Stephens: Visionary Teacher
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Jan 19, 2019: Being the Person You Needed When You Were Younger


Read: Call Transcript (Also: Nuggets From Melissa Stephens's Call)


Melissa Stephens is a spirited elementary and middle school teacher with 24 years of classroom experience, a wife, and mother of three children. A woman of many talents, she currently serves as Student Activities Director, 5th grade Enrichment Teacher, 8th grade Leadership Coordinator, and 7th grade Service Innovation instructor at Kent Middle School in Kentfield, California. She recently earned her Masters in Educational Leadership with a focus on how service learning can cultivate student leaders -- research that she immediately puts into practice with her groundbreaking Service Innovation class, where students deepen their own definition of service, engage multiple forms of capital, cultivate self-awareness through stillness, and culminate in a group service projects. In 2015, she See full.

Melissa Stephens is a spirited elementary and middle school teacher with 24 years of classroom experience, a wife, and mother of three children. A woman of many talents, she currently serves as Student Activities Director, 5th grade Enrichment Teacher, 8th grade Leadership Coordinator, and 7th grade Service Innovation instructor at Kent Middle School in Kentfield, California.

She recently earned her Masters in Educational Leadership with a focus on how service learning can cultivate student leaders -- research that she immediately puts into practice with her groundbreaking Service Innovation class, where students deepen their own definition of service, engage multiple forms of capital, cultivate self-awareness through stillness, and culminate in a group service projects. In 2015, she received the Golden Bell Award on behalf of her school district, for their work with this class.

In her own words, she reflects, "My journey here has been one filled with self-discovery and healing which guides me to live my educational philosophy: 'Be the person you needed when you were younger.'"

Upon entering her classroom, it's apparent that she is definitely that person for many students. Her desks are arranged in a circle, so everyone sees each other. There are inspirational quotes on every wall. A student or two or three are always around, waiting to ask her a question, or just hang out in the safe space during a break between classes. She has a closet for students who get dress code violations -- rather than feel self-conscious by being forced to change into their gym class uniform, they can grab a shirt or slacks from the closet. This past fall, her Service Innovation class launched a community food bank out of her classroom: every week, students pack food for families in the district whose children are on free and reduced lunch. Melissa, quite literally, spins a "Wheel of Kindness" with her advisory class.  Many enriching school-wide programs, such as a "Be The Change" Week, can be traced back to her efforts.

An author, poet, and actress, Melissa also produced and starred in a one-woman-show, based on her journey of healing through abuse experienced as a young child. She is the author of Little Miss and Spirit Bear's Kiss, a children's book about rediscovering one's light after walking through darkness.

Melissa is also an alumnus and volunteer with ServiceSpace's Laddership Circles, a 6-week fellowship program and incubator of generosity-driven designs. Even over video conference calls, her infectious enthusiasm, compelling heart, and bright spirit effortlessly shines through -- and has often manifested as heartfelt limericks and poems reflecting back the value of everyone around her!

Join us on Saturday, January 19th, for an uplifting conversation with this gem of an educator, mother, and human being!


Five Questions for Melissa
What Makes You Come Alive?

Being in service to others and being served when I am in need. Just experiencing that circle of humanity is invigorating! I also love seeing wonder in my students' eyes when they experience serving others and how amazing it feels. The conversations are so rich and fulfilling!

Pivotal turning point in your life?

A pivotal point in my life began when I was 8 when I was sexually abused weekly, sometimes daily, for 3 years. That set me on a path of self-discovery that took my half a century of life to navigate and understand. I am still on that journey :) However, the most pivotal point of all that was when I won the Golden Bell award for our district due to my influence and inspiration to our middle schoolers. Right then, I realized that my greatest joy in life was a result of wanting to move on from my deepest darkness and make other kids' middle school journey more loving and safe. In that moment, I was able to truly forgive my abuser and actually be grateful for that experience. Without it, I know I would not be the teacher I am or have the impact of love that I do on our kiddos!

An Act of Kindness You'll Never Forget?

When my first husband and I were having our first child, a family of a student I had gifted us with a full bedroom set. They gave us everything we needed and told us to just pay it forward to others. My son is almost 21, and since that act of kindness all those years ago, I have been set on a path to pay it forward to others whenever I can.

One Thing On Your Bucket List?

I want to experience more of the world, in whatever way that shows up. I wish to gift that to my own kids as well. Work with children in another part of the world :)

One-line Message for the World?

My tagline from my one woman show was, "Don't hide..go seek."

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