LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Melyssa Ferro

Position: Science Teacher / STEM Coordinator
School: Syringa Middle School
School District: Caldwell School District #132
City, State: Caldwell, ID

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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."

Comments (6)

Amanda Harris Posted over a year ago

Dr. Ferro has set a new bar of classroom respect and rapport. She gives all she's got everyday for all of her students. She has built a well respected safe space into then culture of her classroom. She not only goes above and beyond in her classroom but outside of the school day as well. As a teacher I'm thankful for her open collaboration.

Mary Friddle Posted over a year ago

Dr. Farro puts her heart and soul into her students and the teaching profession. She has provided many opportunities for her students to learn both in the classroom and outside the classroom. Dr. Farro has coordinated many trips for her middle school science students, including ones to Florida and Yellowstone. She is an Idaho teacher of the year and she uses this position to advocate for the teaching profession on state committees and at the legislature. For many years, she has served as the treasurer of the Caldwell Education Association. Dr. Farro has also shared her academic knowledge and expertise by providing trainings to other educators through the Idaho Education Association and through the Caldwell Education Association. Her focus is to build up all students and other educators so they can be successful as well. I would highly recommend Dr. Farro for this honor.

Kristina McDaniel Posted over a year ago

My daughter is a budding geologist and loves everything to do with rocks and minerals. Last year, my daughter decided to ask Dr.Ferro if she would help put on a science-themed birthday party for many of her elementary school friends. Dr. Ferro went above and beyond, and my daughter’s party was a smashing success! Dr. Ferro has planted the seeds for the love of science in the hearts of thousands of kids over the last 20 years, and has absolutely helped shape the lives of many of those kids.

Irene Benkert Posted over a year ago

As a third grade teacher at Wilson Elementary, I am very grateful to Dr. Ferro for being willing to come spend some Science time with my students. She has willingly given up her prep time on occasion to come to my classroom to teach great science lessons to third graders who would love to have her as their Science teacher in middle school. She has always been able to keep the students fully engaged and listening to her every word and movement. Dr. Ferro truly cares for connecting all students to the Love of Science, no matter the grade level. Dr. Ferro is always been willing to help any teacher find meaningful Science lessons appropriate for any age or grade level. I have always been impressed with her knowledge and enthusiasm for Science and getting kids involved with and Loving Science.

Jose Peralta Posted over a year ago

Congratulations Dr. Ferro on your nomination for the Life Change of the year award! I’m very excited for you! You are an amazing teacher! and deserves to be recognized for everything you do for our Caldwell kids. I have seen first hand how you motivate your students and most importantly how you get them to be engage in what your teaching. You make things easier for all students to understand the material you are presenting and provide positive support when they need help. Thank you for all that you do for your students!

Katelin Safford Posted over a year ago

I had Dr. Ferro (then just Mrs. Ferro) as my life science teacher when I was in 7th grade. I'm 23 now, and I will never forget her class and the incredible impact she had on all of us as students! Mrs. Ferro always made us feel capable, engaged, and safe. As the teacher of a middle school life science class, she had to field many questions about the human body, which she did with grace and openness whether the question was about poop or breastfeeding. The experiments we conducted in her class were fun and enlightening. She changed my life and I know she changed the lives of many other students!