Professor Melissa Clairday Brings Out the Best in Her Students
Melissa Clairday is an adjunct professor in Kaplan University’s graduate education progam. She teaches the course Child and Adolescent Development (ED 513).
Professor Clairday always knew she would go to college. Growing up in Alabama, she watched as her parents worked tirelessly at blue-collar jobs. Though both of her parents did not graduate high school initially, she is proud to say that eventually her mother earned her GED and father earned his high school diploma years later. She admired their work ethics but knew she wanted more out of her career.
Professor Clairday remembers the moment she first thought about becoming a teacher. Melissa was an outgoing 18 year old in junior college. She felt lost and uninspired by her major, which was computer information systems. One day in class, an instructor asked her if she had ever considered elementary education.
“I loved working with and helping others. And, my teacher pointed out to me that the choice I had made in careers was probably not very complementary to my interests and personality. Because of what she said, I switched majors,” said Professor Clairday. “As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized teaching was my true calling. I just had to hear it from someone else who saw that potential in me.”
Over a 19-year career, Professor Clairday has found the connections she makes with her students to be some of the most gratifying parts of her work. She truly cares about her students and wants to see them succeed. That’s why she spent 10 years teaching elementary school in a high-poverty community, which she admits was challenging but rewarding on many levels.
“Sometimes the classroom teacher is the only true advocate for a child due to the challenging situations that parents find themselves in while trying to provide a home for their children,” said Professor Clairday. “I always felt a strong connection with those types of students, because I knew if I didn’t step up and make a difference, then I was short-changing them. I wanted to show them that the learning experience could be positive.”
This passion for helping others learn drove Professor Clairday to Kaplan University in 2010, where she currently teaches Child and Adolescent Development. She enjoys showing graduate students strategies for applying development theory to their classroom management and educational practices. Her class focuses on how to identify various student behaviors and then develop effective approaches to addressing those behaviors in the classroom.
Today, Professor Clairday recalls the importance of what her junior college professor said so many years ago. It’s because of her experience that she never shies away from encouraging her students and other young adults to pursue professions that align with their personalities and interests.
“As teachers, it’s our responsibility to point out the potential in our students. Sometimes it takes someone else to help us see strengths that are already within us,” said Professor Clairday.
In recent years, Professor Clairday earned her Doctorate of Educational Leadership and Masters in Instructional Leadership. Now she has her eyes set on working in an administrative role, ideally in middle school, where she feels she can help create a strong support system for students.
When asked what advice she has for teachers striving to further their own education career, Professor Clairday emphasizes the importance of building relationships.
“Don’t make any assumptions about your students. Instead, get to know them and figure out what motivates them,” she said. “Whether you’re in an elementary school or higher education, it’s up to us teachers to bring out the best in our students.”