By Ivy Lam
Each year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, an outstanding teacher is chosen to represent the school as Teacher of the Year.
This 2020-21 school year, newspaper advisor and creative writing teacher, Melissa Falkowski, has been selected to hold the title.
“I was really honored to win Teacher of the Year. I work with a lot of very amazing educators, and so to be selected by them to be represented by the school is an extraordinary honor,” said Falkowski.
Falkowski has been teaching at MSD her entire career, 17 years as of now. The long-time Coral Springs resident and graduate from J.P. Taravella High School was even a student-teacher for the English department in November of 2004 — one month before she officially graduated from college.
“I’ve taught every different type of English class there is, from freshmen to seniors. I’ve taught honors, gifted, regular, creative writing, film studies, and lots of different things,” Falkowski said.
On Friday, Sept. 4, some of the MSD administration stopped by Falkowski’s house to deliver a card, flowers, and a gift card. Because she was selected Teacher of the Year by the school, she now must apply to become the Broward County Teacher of the Year.
Not only is Falkowski honored by her fellow educators, but she is also recognized on a state and national scale. In 2020, she was chosen as the Florida Scholastic Press Association Journalism Teacher of the Year. In 2019, she was selected as the National Journalism Teacher of the Year. Additionally, Falkowski was chosen as the Sun-Sentinel Newspaper Advisor of the Year in 2016 and 2018.
“I feel like my students’ accomplishments are also my accomplishments,” Falkowski said. “My favorite thing about being a teacher is my students. I love what I do. I am very passionate about the newspaper and teaching journalism; that’s probably my favorite subject area that I teach.”
Along with the MSD administration, Falkowski’s students also praise her as an educator. For some, she serves as an inspiration to them, helping them along the way with any questions or concerns they may have.
“[Falkowski] has always been supportive and caring. If a student is upset, she understands. If someone is nervous or anxious, she makes sure they are okay. And if we accomplish something, she is proud of us,” senior Mackenzie Quinn said. “I got to shadow her last year in my teaching class, and she is the type of teacher I aspire to be.”
This year, Falkowski teaches four periods of newspaper and two periods of creative writing. Falkowski advises the Eagle Eye newspaper team and has accumulated numerous awards over the years, one being the National Scholastic Press Association Pacemaker Award.
“Having Mrs. Falkowski as a teacher for the past three years has allowed me to mature and explore different elements of journalism,” senior Nadia Murillo said. “She treats all of her students like young adults, and she believes that every one of her students can excel at whatever they put their minds to.”
Even before Falkowski was a teacher, she made lesson plans and taught people how to do things as the Editor-In-Chief of her high school yearbook staff. She believes teaching was what she was meant to do and further dedicates time in and outside of school to support her students.
“My goals this year are to make the best of the current situation,” Falkowski said. “I’ve tried to research and learn everything I can about what makes online learning effective and apply that in my virtual classroom. I want all my students to have the best possible experience they can have online, even though it’s not the best of circumstances.”
Falkowski’s next step is to submit an application to become the Broward County Teacher of the Year, a process full of packets, presentations, and recommendation letters. Falkowski will compete against other Broward County Teachers of the Year for the county title. The winner will be announced at the 2021 Caliber Awards Ceremony that will take place early next year.
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