Office of School Engagement student spotlight: Melissa Baker
Melissa Baker, the 2016-17 Office of School Engagement graduate assistant, will graduate from the UGA College of Education this May with a Ph.D. in middle grades education. We asked her to reflect on her time working with the PDSD.
Melissa has a bachelor's degree in English from Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, and an M.Ed. in curriculum and instruction from the University of Tampa. She taught middle grades English in Tampa and came to UGA specifically to enter the Ph.D. program in Middle Grades Education. This brought her in contact with Gayle Andrews and Kathy Thompson, co-professors-in-residence at Hilsman Middle School.
As part of her graduate program, she assisted them on a project describing middle grades teacher candidate experiences at PDS and non-PDS middle schools. Later, her work in Andrews' and Thompson's graduate level on-site service-learning course led to her dissertation research, which examines the supports and barriers to family engagement across the transition from elementary school to middle school.
After graduation, Melissa is excited to join the middle level education faculty at the University of South Carolina, where she will be a clinical assistant professor. USC has had a long-standing PDS network, so Melissa will be able to continue partnership work. She will be teaching an undergraduate integrated curriculum class on-site and will begin a PDS partnership with Fulmer Middle School in West Columbia, South Carolina.
Melissa believes that her background in PDS work, especially the depth and immersion she was afforded in the UGA-Clarke County PDSD, led directly to her faculty position. "So many universities are now looking for faculty to work with PDS schools, and I was leaps and bounds ahead of any other candidate because of my experience," she said. And it all started with an on-site class!