THINC’s MeLissa Hicks cares for students beyond the classroom

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, December 6, 2023

EDITOR’S NOTE: The LaGrange Daily News is doing a Q&A with all of the teachers of the year in the Troup County School System. The first is MeLissa Hicks, a literature and composition teacher at THINC College and Career Academy. We asked her 20 questions, and we’ve shortened this interview to some of our favorite responses.

Hicks started teaching in 1995 at Calvary Christian School in Columbus and is in her 29th year teaching, including one and a half year she homeschooled her children as she attended graduate school.

She began working for the Troup County School System during the 2008-2009 school year when she had a position at Gardner Newman Middle School. This is her second year at THINC.

Hicks is the proud parent of three adult children and has four great-grandchildren. 

Q: What inspired you to become an educator? (Or who?)

A: When I was in high school, I knew I wanted to be involved in working with children. I thought that I would be a social worker or some other service type of job where I could be instrumental in helping children. Due to a lot of circumstances, I ended up not going to college right after high school although I made very good grades and loved school. Three years later, I found myself a single mom working in a cotton mill. I knew I needed to get back to MY goals for life. By that time, teaching looked really good because it combined my desire to work with children with my love of history and literature, and the schedule of teaching would work well with being a full-time mom. I was lucky that I had many very, very good teachers throughout my school career. They gave me models for what I wanted to be as a teacher and made teaching look like the absolute best job in the world. Some of these wonderful teachers were Mrs. Gill (third grade), Mrs. Pope and Mrs. Atkins (fourth grade), Mrs. Jones (fifth grade) and Mrs. Ida Ann Dunn and Mr. Wright in high school. These people were kind and smart and I always felt they cared about me. That was the best feeling for this kid where school was their safe, happy place in the world. I wanted to give that to kids that I teach as well.

Q: If you weren’t a teacher, what career field would you be in?

A: This is a funny question. I play this game called Design Home. It is a game where you decorate rooms. So simple, but it is my ASMR activity. I really enjoy it. I wa in a discussion similar to this question recently, and I thought that it would have been cool to be an interior designer. However, when I was in high school, I never even knew that was a thing or a possibility for me. My guidance counselor certainly never suggested any types of careers like that. I am so glad that students now have unlimited options and opportunities to be exposed to all sorts of careers. Finding your niche is not as easy for some, and we need to continue to show kids what possibilities there are in the world for them.

Q: What hidden talent do you have that might surprise your students and our readers?

A: A hidden talent that most of my students don’t know about me is that I can play a pretty mean game of poker. I used to play in Texas Hold ‘em tournaments years ago. I enjoy the strategy needed to play the game. I even won a women’s tournament one time.

Q: What’s the most creative/unique project one of your classes has worked on?

A: One of the best projects I have done in the last few years has been the Murder Board for “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe. The students have to use evidence from the text to become a criminal investigative team in order to prove that Montresor, in fact, killed Fortunado. Student teams receive a police investigative file and must evaluate all the evidence, interview witnesses, and create a psychological profile on our main character to show that he committed first-degree murder and what his motivations might have been. This is a great project that produces awesome results. I always get great feedback from the students on this project and they tend to do very well on the test for that unit.

Q: If you could invite any historical figure to speak to your class, who would you choose and why?

A: It is difficult to decide which historical figure I would have to speak to my students. There are so many good choices. I think, since I currently teach literature, that I would like to have Elizabeth Barrett Browning share her story and ideas with my students. She is the author of one of my favorite poems, and  her story is amazing. It  is a testament to the lengths one will go in the name of love (and academia).

Q: What’s the most rewarding part about your job?

A: The most rewarding part of my job are those “light bulb” moments for sure. Seeing students enjoy and even enthusiastically get involved in their own learning makes this job worth it. I love that I can build relationships with students that allow me to make the most out of my instructional time with them. When you have a day where they are all paying attention and engaged in learning AND we are having fun….those are the best days!

Q: What’s the most

challenging part of your job?

A: In today’s world, technology is both a blessing and a curse. Finding ways to incorporate technology into the classroom is fun and innovative, but trying to combat the phones and social media that permeates a teenager’s life is often difficult. I try very hard to strike a balance. Most days I am successful, but sometimes it is a struggle.

Q: What did it mean to you to be named THINC’s teacher of the year?

A: Being named THINC’s teacher of the year has been a tremendous honor. I appreciate that this is an honor bestowed upon me by my peers and colleagues, and that does not go unnoticed. It is nice to be recognized for the hard work that takes place in my classroom that oftentimes is not seen by anyone but my students and administrators. Knowing that friends and colleagues notice what you do is an amazing feeling!

Q:  As your students transition to the next grade or graduate in May, what is one key takeaway you hope they carry forward from their time in your class?

I hope that in addition to any academic material I taught them, my students will always know that I cared very deeply about them and that I worry that they are OK even when they are no longer in my class.