Melyssa Ferro was nominated by a family member, Joyce McDaniel.
"Dr. Ferro has been the science teacher for three of my grandchildren for all three of their years at Syringa," said McDaniel. "As an involved grandmother, I have seen first hand Dr. Ferro’s passion for middle school students and science. She has been a LifeChanger for many, many of the students who have passed through her classroom during the 20 years she has taught. She has dedicated those 20 years to the goal of creating science scholars who have the critical thinking skills necessary to make successful decisions about their planet and their future. Dr. Ferro has also thrown her whole being into engaging students in real science and STEM activities that prepare them for careers in STEM fields. One of her favorite sayings is 'I believe in encouraging students to get their hands dirty as they explore the many facets of Science.'"
"Having visited Dr. Ferro’s classroom and listened to my grandchildren enthusiastically share their experiences and stories from their daily class activities, I know Dr. Ferro creates a safe, nurturing atmosphere where students can actively engage in learning," said McDaniel. "She uses a variety of teaching methods, media, and technology. She challenges her students to research and discover the world around them for themselves. Whether they're dissecting an eyeball while wearing actual lab coats so they can feel like real scientists, building their own micro-connector out of miscellaneous parts and finding out that it works, or making a field trip out to the local Deer Flat Refuge to participate in water studies with the rangers, the students are always involved in and engaged in interesting, science activities that teach them the standards recently adopted in Idaho Schools."
Visitors to Dr. Ferro’s classroom will quickly discover she cares deeply about her students, their learning, and science. She sets reasonable, but high expectations and rules, and she uses humor often. She keeps up with current trends and fads, and she works diligently to be sure she is current with science information, standards, and news. Dr. Ferro is also a member of the State Science Curriculum Approval Board and is on the Idaho Science Standard Adoption Committee. She recently completed a Ph.D!
Students feel safe in her classroom and are encouraged to be responsible for their own learning. Dr. Ferro stays current about student home and school situations, and she's there to lend a quick hug or shoulder to cry on, or to mentor a student.
"A recent visit to Syringa had me grinning as I watched a group of engaged and excited seventh graders using their black lab tables as a sketchbook for drawing and writing their theories on the formation of the moon," said McDaniel.
Dr. Ferro engages her students in real projects that help them grow as citizen scientists, as well as citizens of their community and world. Her 7th and 8th graders participate in Future City competitions. This is a nationwide program where students research and build a model city to specific guidelines that solve a real world problem, such as water issues. Her 8th graders spend several days in March at Yellowstone Park working with the rangers on environmental and ecological studies and problems. Every other year, she takes a group of middle students to Florida on a Habitat H2O field trip that delves into the ocean and manatee worlds.
During the school year, she is the advisor for the Science Bowl team and district director of the Science Fair program, which both district middle schools participate in. The Science Fair is a community partnership where, in addition to student projects, many local business, schools, and community partners set up booths to teach and promote STEM activities and programs. In the summer, Dr. Ferro can be found monitoring and tutoring eighth graders in the collaborative program held at the College of Idaho, where they spend time in classes with STEM professors from the College.
All students are encouraged and welcomed to participate in all and any of these projects and programs. Fundraising is done in advance to help students with the finances needed for the Yellowstone and Florida trips.
Having students excited about school and science and learning definitely creates a positive school atmosphere, and students want to be at school when they're engaged. Parents flock to Dr. Ferro’s room during Open House and parent/teacher conferences.
Additionally, Dr. Ferro has been a member of the Syringa Leadership program, and she is always advocating for students. She is also the science department chair for the middle schools and lead teacher for the elementary science programs. In 2016, Dr. Ferro represented Idaho as Idaho’s Teacher of the Year.
Dr. Ferro has made a difference in the lives of hundreds of students over the 20 years she has taught at Syringa. Two specific examples come to mind. There was a young Hispanic woman who entered college this past fall majoring in Environmental Biology, all due to Dr. Ferro’s influence, classes and encouragement. The other example is Ms. McDaniel's granddaughter, who became so excited about science and engineering that she is now a freshman in college majoring in Materials and Metallurgical Engineering at a prestigious engineering college. There are other examples, all due to the passion, focus and advocacy of women in science and STEM programs by Dr. Ferro!
"Dr. Ferro is a highly regarded and respected member of the Caldwell community," said McDaniel. "She is involved in many local service projects and is most often seen working with a group of students from Syringa . She has a reputation as a passionate advocate for the environment and a model for what a citizen scientist looks like. Dr. Ferro invites members of industry, college staffs and community businesses to join her as mentors and role models. For all the above reasons, I believe she is definitely a LifeChanger."