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Memphis teacher to be named in the National Teacher's Hall of Fame

Melissa Collins is the 5th teacher in Tennessee to be named a Hall of Famer.
Credit: National Teachers Hall of Fame

EMPORIA, Kan. — The five new inductees to The National Teachers Hall of Fame have amassed a total of 135 years of classroom teaching, and, as always, they represent the great things happening in American education.

Under normal circumstances, each year in March, surprise announcements are held in each of the inductees’ schools, with family, friends, colleagues, and students present to celebrate the honor. Unfortunately, school closures amid the pandemic put everything on hold. Then travel was a problem, and the June induction date in Emporia, Kansas, had to be cancelled. 

The NTHF Board of Trustees voted to postpone the induction ceremonies for the Class of 2020 until June of 2021 to give the new members their full time in the spotlight. Unfortunately, no announcements had been made, so the 24 semifinalists have been waiting six months to know the decision of the national selection committee that met in late February. 

Thanks to the generosity and creative planning of the College Football Playoff Foundation, the Hall of Fame announcement was made nationally on YouTube Live on Monday, Sept. 14. 

Included in the Extra Yard for Teachers Week (September 12 to 19)  is this year’s inaugural “Big Day” on the 14th when all of college football and partners that support education will surprise hundreds of local teachers in a big way, including surprise grants for resources and honoring them through recognition on social platforms. The Foundation will be rewarding each of the Hall of Fame inductees with a $1000 DonorsChoose gift card for use in their classrooms.

This year’s inductees represent four different states and a variety of teaching assignments.  They are:

  • Andrew Beiter, a Springville (NY) Middle School eighth grade Social Studies teacher
  • Thomas Knab, a K-4 Visual Arts educator at Dodge Elementary School in East Amherst, New York
  • Melissa Collins, a second grade teacher at John P. Freeman Optional School in Memphis, Tennessee
  • Donna Gradel,  a retired 10th-12th grade Environmental Science teacher from Broken Arrow High School, and current Dean of Academics and Innovation at Summit Christian Academy in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
  • Jamil Siddiqui, a 9th to 12th grade Mathematics teacher at East Bridgewater Junior/Senior High School in East Bridgewater, Massachusetts

Melissa Collins, a second grade teacher at John P. Freeman Optional School in Memphis, Tennessee, has completed 21 years of teaching and is the 5th teacher from Tennessee to become a Hall of Famer.

Michael Dunlea, a colleague who teaches 3rd grade in Tabernacle, New Jersey, and whose class is virtually linked to Collins’ class in Tennessee for team projects, praises her extremely diverse leadership as her work has been “significant in Equity, Mentoring new/novice/pre-service teachers, National Board Certification, STEM, Social Emotional Learning, Global Teaching Mindset, and Student and Teacher Advocacy.” Dunlea says he admires his colleague as “she has contributed heavily to the work of teacher advocacy at the local, state, national and international levels. Dr. Collins has overcome struggles and obstacles such as racism and oppression to lead this profession as a teacher leading from the classroom.”

She was nominated for consideration by Dyane Smokorowski, a 2019 NTHF inductee, who wrote: “Melissa embodies a true innovator for the sound pedagogy and opportunities for the classroom. She’s the first one to step forward and say, ‘Pick me,’ for any new initiative; but more than that, she is committed to taking these learning opportunities and inspiring future educators to be innovative and cutting-edge.” 

The inductees will be honored in early May in Washington DC by Congressional delegations from Kansas, New York, Tennessee, Massachusetts, and Oklahoma; will meet with representatives from the US Department of Education to discuss education issues; and will be recognized by the Executive Board of the National Education Association at their headquarters, with NEA President Becky Pringle presenting an award to each inductee.  

In June, the inductees and their families will visit Emporia, Kansas, dubbed “Teacher Town, USA” by Teacher Magazine, to be formally inducted. A week later, the 5 will travel to Orlando to be featured presenters at the Education Summit at DisneyWorld, sponsored by Pegasus Springs Education Collective.

It will be a busy time for these outstanding career educators, all of whom are still teaching full-time.

About the National Teachers Hall of Fame
The National Teachers Hall of Fame (NTHF), located in Emporia, Kansas, was founded in 1989 by Emporia State University, the ESU Alumni Association, the City of Emporia, USD 253, and the Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce as a tribute to our nation’s most important profession: Teaching. The first induction ceremony was held in 1992, and each year five career teachers with 20 or more years of full-time Pre-K-12 teaching are selected.

The NTHF is committed to drawing the public’s attention to exceptional PreK-12 teachers through a museum, teacher resource center, and recognition program which honors five of the nation’s most outstanding PreK-12 educators each year. It is the only facility of its kind dedicated to preserving and promoting education, and to serving our country by inspiring others to enter the teaching profession and it has been endorsed by practically every national education organization. Visit www.nthf.org for more information.