LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Melissa Karigan

Position: Spanish Teacher
School: Lemont High School
School District: Lemont Township High School District 210
City, State: Lemont, IL

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Melissa Karigan was nominated by an anonymous student.

Señorita Karigan has always gone above and beyond for her students. She keeps her classes interesting and always introduces fun, new ways to keep students engaged. From debates in class to using new applications on the computers, she always finds a way to improve students' language abilities and help them succeed.

"Señorita Karigan wants her students to succeed more than any other teacher I have ever had," the nominator said. "When a student doesn't understand a topic or is struggling, she will offer any help she can, whether that be during class or after school."

Señorita Karigan creates a classroom atmosphere that makes students feel welcome and comfortable. Students feel comfortable sharing information with her, and she's always there to give advice. 

"We had a school seminar about what to look out for and how to make decisions when at prom with friends," the nominator said. "After this seminar, she created a class discussion to provide a safe environment for the students to talk about how to handle certain situations. She also gave advice and told us how tough peer pressure can be in social settings, but ultimately it is our decision to do what we want. She could have continued on with class after the seminar like most teachers did, but she took the opportunity to provide more advice to her students."

Señorita Karigan also runs the Interact club at the high school to allow students to volunteer and make a difference in the community. She takes time out of her own summer schedule to help in the Steam camp, which assists special needs children.

"These are just a few examples of how Señorita Karigan is very involved with making Lemont a better school and community as a whole," the nominator said. "Señorita Karigan will always be a role model to me because of her readiness to put her students' needs above her own. She made me realize I want to pursue a career that will allow me to make a difference in someone's life like she has to mine. I will always be grateful I had the opportunity to be her student."



Comments (15)


Lisa Karigan Posted over a year ago

This is an amazing award for Melissa to be nominated for and for it to come from an unsolicited student makes it all the more meaningful and genuine. As Melissa's mom, I find myself continually amazed by her, literally from day 1 when she was lifting her head in the hospital nursery checking out her her surroundings to her academic achievements and her professional accomplishments. She's a powerhouse both professionally and in her personal life. She holds herself to the highest level of integrity in everything she does and encourages (but never pushes) the people around her including her students to strive for that too. Her kindheartness extends not only to people but she is an advocate for animals and the environment. I feel very fortunate to have her as my daughter and I really can't take credit for it because she is a much stronger, caring and resourceful person than I can hope to be. #tooproud

Gus Karigan Posted over a year ago

What can I say.... this young lady, my niece has made an effort each year to better herself for her students to become well versed in Spanish class. This not only translates to a better Spanish student but a well rounded student outside of class. She has emmersed herself in the culture and in turn brought back more experience and knowledge to share with her classes. She is a special person and deserving of this honor.

Stefanie Miller Posted over a year ago

I first met Melissa in 2013 before she began her career at Lemont High School. She immediately struck me as reflective and observant, slowly taking in her surroundings and learning about the unique culture of our small community. I was Melissa’s “next door neighbor” for four years as our classrooms were adjacent. I got a front-seat view of Melissa’s unwavering dedication to all of her students before and after school. Melissa has always been her students’ #1 encourager: she has prioritized being available to students both before and after school, attending their athletic events and extracurricular activities, and learning about her students as individuals and people. While Melissa’s creativity, work ethic and critical thinking undeniably make her an excellent teacher, I truly believe her empathy, compassion and deep desire to help students grow make her an invaluable leader and friend.

Eve Winiarski Posted over a year ago

Congrats for being nominated Melissa!

Lisa Karigan Posted over a year ago

This is an amazing award for Melissa to be nominated for and for it to come from an unsolicited student makes it all the more meaningful and genuine. As Melissa's mom, I find myself continually amazed by her, literally from day 1 when she was lifting her head in the hospital nursery checking out her her surroundings to her academic achievements and her professional accomplishments. She's a powerhouse both professionally and in her personal life. She holds herself to the highest level of integrity in everything she does and encourages (but never pushes) the people around her including her students to strive for that too. Her kindheartness extends not only to people but she is an advocate for animals and the environment. I feel very fortunate to have her as my daughter and I really can't take credit for it because she is a much stronger, caring and resourceful person than I can hope to be. #tooproud

Danielle Tatje Posted over a year ago

For Melissa to be nominated for this incredible award comes as no shock as it just speaks entirely to the person and educator that she is. Melissa has always had a special way of caring and listening to others that is unlike anyone I've ever met. The care and attention she puts into each of her relationships is unbelievable but her students come before all else. Being an education is far more than a profession for Melissa but a part of who she is. Her ability to be available for her students far beyond the protocols of the classroom and continually better herself for the good of her students is such a selfless gift that she has. I am truly grateful to have known Melissa since college and watch her as she evolved into the teacher and person she is today. Knowing that she will only continue to improve in the years to come, and tailor her teaching to benefit each individual student- whether they need assistance scholastically or personally is something so rare. Her willingness to bring the best out of each student makes her more than deserving of this honored award.

Maggie Sack Posted over a year ago

Congrats! So happy and proud that you are using your gifts to make this world more educated and more compassionate! Would love to get together and chat soon ??

Bailey Wagner Posted over a year ago

It comes as no surprise that Melissa was nominated for this award! Melissa is a wonderfully thoughtful teacher with a passion for education. Her dedication is unparalleled and her passion is undeniable. She is always willing to go above and beyond to ensure that each individual in her classroom has the resources to succeed; she is incredibly invested in the future of her students. Melissa is also admirable for her constant drive to further her own education, investing her time in intensive language programs, masters courses, and adjacent opportunities to build out her skill set. As she invests in her own development, she inspires those around her to seek opportunities for self-growth. I am so grateful to know Melissa. I look forward to seeing how she continues to leave a positive impact on those around her!

Meredith Bushnell Posted over a year ago

I met Melissa in college and was instantly drawn to her kind heart, sense of humor, and fun personality. She challenged herself throughout college to better herself not only as a future educator, but as a well rounded, giving person. I loved listening to and watching her mock lesson plans because her excitement for teaching was quite apparent. I knew she would become an awesome teacher inspiring her students. She continues to go above and beyond traveling to desolate areas and immersing herself in different cultures seeking more learning opportunities to relay to her students. Our conversations often go back to her classes, innovative things she is doing, and how much she really cares for her students. She is one of the hardest working people I know, a great friend, and a much deserved Lifechanger of Year Award recipient.

Kelly Herman Posted over a year ago

I have had the privilege of being Melissa’s friend for nearly 15 years and can without hesitation say that she is one of the most positive, intelligent, and passionate people I have ever met. Melissa gives 110% to everything she does, and comes at each situation with respect and drive. Her work ethic is incredible, and she is constantly putting herself in situations outside of her comfort zone in order to strengthen the skill set she uses in her classroom. Through both travel and advanced education, Melissa is consistently adapting to dynamic and at times unpredictable environments. I was given the opportunity to see Melissa’s teaching in action at Lemont High School and her enthusiasm for bettering her students both from an academic and a personal perspective is inspiring. The minute that you meet Melissa her passion, charisma, and warmth come through and her first impression remains to be exactly who she is. Melissa is relatable to all, she meets no strangers, and strives to put the betterment and advancement of her students above all else. Melissa would be an exceptional selection for the Lifechanger of the year award.

Claire Eisenhuth Posted over a year ago

Melissa is an extremely compassionate and caring friend, always thinking of others. She's incredibly hardworking and puts her all into everything she does. It's awesome see these qualities come through to her classroom and really make an impact on her students lives. Melissa is committed to continuing her education through travels and schooling to further positively impact her students. She is incredibly deserving of this award and its so amazing to see her continually be recognized among the teaching community!

Alex Karigan Posted over a year ago

For anyone that knows my sister Melissa, they would describe her as intelligent, passionate, genuine, hardworking, and fun-loving. These qualities are not only what make her my best friend, but they are the reason she has been nominated for this award. It is hard for me to believe that Melissa has just finished her fifth year of teaching because she has accomplished so much in such a short amount of time. During her fourth year of teaching, Melissa received the "Award of Excellence" in the Early Career Educator Category for the Illinois State Board of Education. She was one of seven teachers to earn this award. Additionally, her extreme love for learning has motivated her to travel around the world to Spanish speaking countries to enhance her Spanish speaking skills as well as help her to learn more about the Spanish speaking culture. She has currently crossed Spain, Ecuador, and Mexico off her list. After she completes her Master's degree in the "teaching of Spanish" at the University of Illinois at Chicago in May of 2019, she plans to continue traveling and learning. I am SO incredibly proud of Melissa and what she has accomplished within the past few years, and look forward to seeing what she continues to accomplish throughout her career.

Kelsey Pelljs Posted over a year ago

Although I have only worked at Lemont High School and with Melissa for one school year, in that short time I have seen her demonstrate such innovation in her class, compassion towards her students, and a work ethic to better our school that is second to none. Melissa is the type of teacher you hope your kids will some day have the priveledge of sitting in her classroom, because you know her teaching will aid them far beyond one year of Spanish. Much like the student who nominated her indicated, Melissa not only finds a way to make her lesson plans engaging and interactive to ensure her students are learning, but also works to incorporate life lessons so her students are also working towards becoming better people. As a social worker, I admire Melissa’s commitment to serving her students as their teacher and as a role model. She is more than deserving of this recognition.

Alexandria Dauksas Posted over a year ago

Melissa happens to be my co worker and I couldn't ask for a better person to work with every day. Melissa has inspired me to be a better teacher and she sparks so much creativity within our department as a whole. Working with her collaboratively as a team has not only benefitted my career, but most importantly the education of our students.

Tony Karigan Posted over a year ago

I've seen throughout her life the extra effort that Melissa puts in everything. From the time she was is pre School and studied to learn to read to the time when she became a lifeguard and taught swimming lessons. She always wanted to do her best no matter what the task was. So when I read the nice letter from one of her students, it doesn't surprise me. That's my Melissa. She could have conquered the corporate world but chose to teach and help others. It seems that she is conquering that role too. I'm beyond proud of what she is accomplishing in her life and can't wait to see what's to come. But that's my Melissa!