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Melissa Legate Named Teacher of the Year

English teacher at Piece Jr-Sr. High School, Melissa Legate, has been awarded the 2024 Carol MacDaniels Teacher of the Year. Her impact extends through her school and across the state of Nebraska through her multiple leadership roles with the Nebraska Writing Project. She has served as a Co-Director of our site, mentored teachers as part of one of the largest studies on argument writing ever completed, hosted an embedded institute in her own district, coordinated our involvement with the NETA Conference, and this year, she is facilitating our summer institute. Melissa stands out for her thoughtful intelligence, gift at hosting conversations across divides, and unwavering commitment to students and to the larger work of teaching.  She completed a stellar MA thesis about her work equipping students to have rich discussions about complex public issues online. Rather than shying away from difficult conversations, Melissa wades in alongside her students, with the boldness of a truly great teacher.

As her nominator, Brenda Larabee, writes, “In 2015, Melissa wholeheartedly embraced the Nebraska Writing Project Summer Institute experience. During this transformative period, she demonstrated an exceptional capacity for growth and innovation. Using her own words from the EQUIP presentation she delivered at the Summer Institute, Melissa articulated a profound philosophy: “We (as teachers) can cultivate in our students awareness, the ability to question things as they are, and a sense of responsibility for dissenting and envisioning solutions when they become aware of injustice.” This quote encapsulates the force and enthusiasm with which Melissa approaches everything in her classroom and her work with the Nebraska Writing Project.

Echoing similar themes, as one of NeWP colleagues writes, Melissa is “a force for positive change in the educational landscape,” continuing,  “Melissa embodies the NeWP core value of teachers teaching teachers. She facilitates collaboration between teachers extraordinarily well, inviting their experience and expertise to speak in order to develop programming, activities and lesson plans that are in the best interest of students. She is driven, humble, and dedicated to professional growth.”

Melissa’s leadership is well-known at her school, as well.  In the words of her principal, “In my humble opinion, I believe Mrs. Legate is one of the very best English instructors in the state of Nebraska . . . . Whether it's been a class she's taught or an activity she's sponsored or coached, it's always "turned to gold" because of her dedication and detail-oriented preparation. Not only is she a hard worker, Mrs. Legate also is a "kid magnet." Her students are naturally drawn to her because of her caring nature and ability and willingness to relate to all types of children.”

The way Melissa both cares for and challenges her students is evident in the words they used to describe her classes.  One of her students wrote, “She facilitated class discussions in a way that both let everyone voice their perspective and allowed students to find nuance by listening to others.” In another’s words, “To be blunt, I was not too fond of English class due to the rigorous writing involved along with many complex readings that we were expected to understand eventually. Writing was very difficult for me because, quite frankly, I wasn't comfortable with being pushed outside my comfort zone. However . . . Mrs. Legate knew that this is where students grow the most.” A third adds, “She pushed me to think for myself and helped me grow and develop as an individual. I know that I am a better person today because of her!”



Melissa Legate Named Teacher of the Year

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Pierce Public Schools 201 N. Sunset St. Pierce, NE  68767

402.329.6217 Fax: 402.329.4678

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

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