Position: Retiring Title I Math Teacher
School: Piedmont Elementary School
School District: Kanawha County Schools
City, State: Charleston, WV
Music that Describes Melinda
Melinda Clay was nominated by her principal, Ashley James.
Ms. Clay has dedicated her lifelong career to the students of West Virginia. She grew up in rural Wyoming County, WV. She attended Marshall University before returning to Wyoming County and beginning her teaching career. Eventually, Ms. Clay moved to Charleston, WV and dedicated the remainder of her career to the students of Kanawha County, particularly on the Westside and East End of Charleston. These are both inner-city areas in West Virginia.
"When I began my career, it was at Chandler Elementary, where Melinda was a third grade teacher. I was a young teacher who recently graduated college, and Chandler quickly became my home," said James. "Melinda quickly became my friend. She took me under her wing and helped me develop my own teaching style."
Ms. Clay had a unique way with her students. She treated them like her own. She built positive relationships with their families and grew to love each and every one of them. Ms. Clay was giving and thoughtful, and she was always looking out for her students and colleagues alike. She enjoyed teaching students in need, and she worked tirelessly to help her students grow, regardless of their economic status or background."
"Sometime in our careers, we parted ways when I became an administrator, but we never ended our friendship. She continued her teaching career, and I became a principal," said James. "We always kept in touch. She was my friend, and I looked up to her for advice because she was always positive and helpful."
"As fate would have it, we both ended up at the same school again, Piedmont Elementary School," said James. "This time, things were slightly different. I was her principal, and she was teaching Title 1 Math. At the same time, nothing had changed. She was still as amazing as ever. Now, I got to work alongside my friend and mentor. It seemed like her love for students had grown. She took pride in her job, whether it was working with struggling students, studying for Math Field Day, or setting up tables for Family Nights. Melinda would jump in and get the job done. She is the shining example of what a teacher should be."
Ms. Clay's career didn't end as planned. She underwent some medical procedures, and she wasn't able to return to school as expected. She was devastated, and she missed her students and her friends. Ms. Clay wasn't able to visit like she wanted, but she kept up with everyone through phone and emails. Finally, after being out of the school building for almost the whole year, she was able to return in March 2020. She proudly announced that she would return for the last nine weeks before entering retirement. Unfortunately, COVID-19 had other plans.
"Melinda's plans were changed with COVID-19 amongst us," said James. "Melinda didn't get to say her proper goodbye, but she will never be forgotten. She will truly be missed by her students and colleagues. She has been a tremendous asset to the students of West Virginia for over three decades."