Walled Lake teacher, MEA member named Michigan Teacher of the Year

Melody Arabo, a third grade teacher at Walled Lake’s Keith Elementary School and a member of the Walled Lake Education Association, was named the 2014-15 Michigan Teacher of the Year by State Superintendent Mike Flanagan at an afternoon assembly at her school. Arabo, a teacher at Keith for 12 years, was chosen from 238 applicants statewide.

The announcement came as a complete surprise to her. Melody thought Superintendent Flanagan was at her school to celebrate Keith Elementary School’s 50th anniversary this year.

Upon being named, Arabo said, “Next to being with my students, being a voice for Michigan teachers is one of the most important things I can do. I hope I can live up to the expectation.”

Melody did not start out wanting to be a teacher. She planned on going into marketing and advertising when she took a paraprofessional position at one of Walled Lake’s elementary schools. It only took a month for her to realize how much she loved working with students one-on-one and knowing that she could make a difference. Melody changed her mind about her future career and graduated with a degree in elementary education from MSU. She also has a master’s degree in Curriculum and Teaching from MSU.

Melody came back to Walled Lake to teach at Keith where she is described by her colleague, Julianne Shavely, a Keith kindergarten teacher, as “dedicated, a positive influence on students, her colleagues and the community, and on top of all the best practices for teaching children.”

An alumna of the Galileo Leadership Academy, Arabo is currently one of five Michigan teachers selected by the NEA-sponsored Master Teacher Project, an elite program giving 96 of the nation’s master teachers a chance to share their best practices with other teachers across the country.

Flanagan congratulated Arabo on being named Teacher of the Year by saying, “Melody is a transformative teacher and a dynamic example of our Michigan teachers. Her child-centered approach to learning ensures she is meeting the needs of all her students.  We look forward to her continued contributions to teaching and learning.”

Melody’s influence extends beyond just her colleagues. It was a parent, Edie Schwartz, who nominated Arabo for the award. Schwartz credited her with motivating her son to read.

Schwartz said, “She has a magical way of making learning fun for kids. You have to see her with students. Mrs. Arabo not only helped my son build confidence in reading, but he is now able to read.”

That sentiment is echoed by Melody’s principal, Phillip Pittman, “Walking into Melody’s classroom, you feel the excitement students have for learning. Melody puts students and their learning at the center of everything she does with differentiated instruction. She is truly a treasure.”

As Michigan Teacher of the Year, Melody will have a seat at the State Board of Education meetings and have the ear of policymakers both in Michigan and Washington. She will also have the chance to meet with Governor Snyder and President Obama.

For now, Melody said, “I feel my greatest accomplishment is being named to represent the state of Michigan as an effective teacher preparing future citizens of the world. This is such a great honor to be a positive voice for education and all teachers in Michigan. We hear so much negativity. I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to show the public that Michigan has great schools and dedicated teachers.”