2018 Hall of Fame Nominee

Melissa Dalton

Scripps Middle School
Lake Orion, MI
2018 Finalist from CSCTFL

My personal policy has been to improve every year. On the last day at Scripps we file out, forming a big line, and wave to our kids. Most years we are quite emotional, contemplating what role we had on all those faces we see hanging out windows, cheering from the bus. I start school each year with this fresh image of myself as I wave goodbye in June, hoping for the best year ever. Then the busy life of teaching begins…

Professional Growth

There is no denying the fatigue, stress and concern we feel throughout the day. Perfection is elusive. The only recourse we have is to fortify ourselves with professional involvement to grow our skill base. Every time I attend a workshop, a conference, a meeting with colleagues or even wander upstairs to eat lunch with fellow teacher friends, I am inspired. Gaining insight from others is the primary reason I stay involved professionally. I love to teach. There is no other career that would offer me so much emotional or intellectual satisfaction. I’m a relatively serious and analytical person, therefore I like to do things by the book. I truly enjoy reading the ACTFL publications, and sometimes incur a slight amount of teasing from my colleagues when I know on which page a diagram, rubric or quote is found. The more prepared we are with ideas and strategies, the better we articulate ideas to forge policy. Finally, by being an active learner I model desired attributes for my students. I constantly tell them they are about to be guinea pigs for a new idea and they love it.

With policies handed down from government, I try to turn lemons into lemonade, working through the things I can’t control. For example, when I moved back to America in 2002, I was hired at Scripps where they needed Spanish and French certification. I was certified in Spanish and was proficient in Japanese, but had no university course work. Under NCLB I needed a major in Japanese and there was no existing comp-out test at the time. I was hired on the condition I fulfilled my certification. After taking all classes offered at Oakland University, I spent the summer at Middlebury in Level Four, and was taken under the wing of Endo-sensei at Michigan State University. I would say my Japanese, after working at a kindergarten in Japan was fluid, but I gladly jumped through the hoops. Seven years later my successful program was eliminated due to the lack of analogous course at the high school. Inadvertently, the two-year language requirement hurt my Japanese program. My outcome was positive after learning techniques from ESL training in Japan, attending Middlebury and through Endo-sensei encouraging me to attend the ICJLT Conference at Columbia University, where I heard first-hand presentations by Merrill Swain and Paul Sandrock. Through synthesizing these strategies my students benefitted, such as Abby Leskiv, winning the NCJLT New Year’s Postcard design competition.

The OPI I volunteered to take at Middlebury prompted my MOPI training! Ironically, every time I ventured off the beaten path, I was lead closer to teaching for proficiency in the long run. The summer Japanese was discontinued I spent a day sulkily, navigating TripAdvisor. As the sun set, I scheduled a two-week vacation to Northern Spain, stays in mountain shepherd huts and rental car! I had to regain inspiration. I took pictures of store fronts, fruit at the markets and sampled every flavor of ice cream. My daughter romped on beaches with the children of my now grown, Spanish friends. When I went back to school that fall I was a new person.

Leadership and Professional Involvement

One of the best PD opportunities occurred when my daughter was younger. I realized that MSU CeLTA held language camps for children the same weeks as CLEAR scheduled workshops. My lucky daughter attended Chinese and Spanish camps for two summers. A great outcome of that experience was that I witnessed first-hand the fabulous communicative strategies that were imparted by the MSU language staff. I attended my workshops, then heard the play by play from my daughter, as she encountered good ideas at camps. I applied skills learned at the CLEAR Workshops when I was contracted to create three Spanish 1 Moodle Units for Oakland Schools. Many of the activities on Moodle have CLEAR Rich Internet Applications embedded in them. Through taking on development work I improved my Moodle pages because I was guided by the hands-on technological assistance from Oakland Schools consultants, Irma Torres and Judy Nichols. Although it has been a ten-year process, I am able to spend more time in the target language in my classroom and relegate the practice for students outside the school day.

My classroom was dramatically improved by differentiated instruction and standards-based grading. I boldly recommended a Ken O’Connor book for our School Improvement Team. My principal generously ordered copies for everyone and we attended many workshops. I was invited to join these PD opportunities and found myself eventually sitting on a district committee to develop policies for a SBG conversion at the middle level. At these meetings, I encountered ideas from the best teachers. I then shared those ideas with the World Language teachers while contributing on the Oakland Schools SBG team. By testing ideas from Standards- based grading, my relationship with my students has been enriched because I alleviated the negative underpinnings of my grading practices. I work with many educators when presenting Oakland Schools workshops on SBG with a team of colleagues, also in my role as moderator on the Michigan 5Cs Network Forum and the OS World Language Leadership Team planning Saturday Café Workshops. Frequently, I also bounce my ACTFL inspired ideas off my mentee, Emily Robinson, prior to planning these workshops. The gratification I feel from helping fellow educators is abundant. Teaching is a challenging career because our success, and that of our students, is nearly exclusively derived from a deep sense of self-worth requiring extreme confidence, preparation and balanced mental fortitude. This fall I’m moving beyond the four sessions I’ve presented at MIWLA, to propose a target language workshop for Spanish teachers. I will be working with my 5th student teacher, to design this workshop promoting the 90/10 classroom. I also submitted a proposal for a session on SBG for CSCTFL in 2018.


In Michigan, I am working hard to advocate that our World Language Requirement stay intact. After receiving a disappointing response to my letter regarding HB 4315/16 from Representative Reilly, I doubled-up and joined my district’s recently formed Legislative Advocacy Committee. At our meeting, I could approach him personally and reiterate my CSCTFL policy speech on coding, stretching it into a ten-minute audience, at the end of which I gave him my card and invited him to my classroom. Many seniors are against supporting taxes for schools. I have organized my AATSP Sociedad Hispánica de Amistad students to visit the Spanish class at the Orion Senior Center to bring good PR to my language program, get the students thinking about Spanish beyond the school and encourage a multigenerational interest in World Language education. There are many creative ways to advocate. Proficient students are our best ammunition.

Additionally, I supported Viviana Bonafede and the Detroit Public Schools Immersion Program as a guest speaker at parent workshop in April. I spoke on the topic of language proficiency and the importance of language study at a young age. I compiled research and documentation to provide a thirty-minute speech for parents and Detroit language educators. I look forward to more opportunities to speak on a public level and project my passion for languages in the future!