Director of Professional Development, K12 Lab Network
“Smile, you’re on candid camera!”
Melissa never could have imagined that a 4-year stint working on the Candid Camera television show could have prepared her for a career in teaching and design thinking but it did. From hitchhiking through a Wendy’s drive-through to getting people to participate and finish an acoustic rendition of “I am Woman, Hear Me Roar”, the lessons learned from her experiences on the show paved the way for an exciting career working with people.
Melissa has worn many hats in education, all of which have required improvisational skills, trust in herself and her fellow human beings and the acceptance of the unknown. Several visits to her students’ homes over the years taught her how to empathize with the students and families she served. This empathy not only helped her to develop deep personal relationships with her students but it also unknowingly created a strong foundation for the design thinking work she would do later on.
In 2007, after watching her husband learn design thinking as a graduate student at Stanford, Melissa jumped at the chance to attend a teacher bootcamp at the d.school. She completed the workshop on a Saturday and by Monday morning had designed her first design challenge for her students. As a Reading Specialist, serving 7th and 8th grade students reading at a 2nd and 3rd grade reading level, Melissa used the design thinking process to help her students solve problems for the characters in the texts they were reading. Melissa got hooked on the process as a vehicle for learning when an argument around what a particular character needed ensued. One side of the class felt strongly that the character in the text needed to love itself before the community would love it and the other side of the class argued that the community needed to love the character before it could love itself. It was at this moment in time when Melissa knew she had found something very special, a process to help students to facilitate their own learning and curiosity and feel confident in themselves as agents of change. Her students’ reading scores began to sore and others began to notice and inquire about the process.
As a Dean of Academics for Aspire Public Schools from 2008-2012, Melissa not only helped other teachers to learn the design thinking process but she also began using the process to redesign systems and processes at her school site, specifically focusing on professional development. The opportunity to design, rather than to just teach design, provided Melissa with a whole new understanding and fascination with the process and inspired her to learn even more.
In 2012, Melissa joined the K12 Lab Network at the d.school and quickly transitioned into the Fellowship program to focus on designing new forms of teacher professional development full time. As a fellow, Melissa participated in many professional developments, talked to a variety of stakeholders providing and receiving professional development and identified many opportunities for improvement.
Currently, Melissa is working as the Director of Professional Development for the K12 Lab Network and she is having a blast. She is constantly pinching herself, wondering how she manages to make a living creating and designing experiments around teacher professional development. She is passionate about teaching teachers in the ways we want teachers to teach kids and believes that teacher professional development is the key to redesigning education for students.
She is extremely passionate about the experiments she is working on currently:
d.home team – a network of 11 local schools all learning in experiential ways. Each school is represented by a design team who participates in day-long workshops focused on the mindsets of the design thinking process instead of the process itself. There is no lecture and no “teaching” as it is commonly defined. Instead, learning is facilitated and constructed by the participants as a result of experiential design
2minPD – a concept created during her fellowship, 2minPD leverages teachers to develop eachother. 2minPD is “professional development meets entertainment” and is an answer to the question, “how might we change professional development from feeling less like a chore and more like a gift?” Instructional strategies are crowdsourced from teachers then translated into engaging and humorous 2-minute videos. These videos are pushed out to mobile phones each morning for teachers to watch and enjoy at their leisure. Melissa is currently building a series of videos and is hoping to push out her first set in the new year.