As a 7th grader, I knew what I wanted to do with my life: I was going to be a microbiologist, move to Greenland, and live as a hermit. Somehow I became a teacher instead! If you’d told me 10 years ago I would be teaching science/special education in the inner city at a technology focused high school, I would have laughed in your face. But urban education has been my passion since I started with the RCSD 8 years ago and it is my dream to retire from this district 30 or so years from now.
Since I’ve started here, I’ve grown so much. I’ve learned how to write the best darned IEP on the face of the planet. I can host my classes online through Google classroom, edit videos, embed apps, and create content in my sleep. I’ve also sent more emails between 2am and 4am than my coworkers can handle. I’ve hiked 100s of miles on the Appalachian Trail, traveled to Peru despite speaking only 3 words of Spanish, practiced yoga with one of the masters, learned how to cook eat/vegan, and I have a three-legged cat.
With the amazing colleagues at my school, I have been immersed in the principles of expeditionary learning, piloted blending learning models of instruction, experienced the power of 1:1 technology use in the classroom, and discovered how passion for one’s subject rubs off on one’s students. Every day reaffirms how challenging education is- particularly urban education.
Thank God I landed here instead of Greenland!
Yelena Melnichenko is my partner in crime in all things education. While I may be the voice of this operation, she is the brains and expert on all things around technology integration. Yelena is one of those innovative math teachers who engages students in hands-on activities that immerse them in the math experience. With her 10 years of experience in the RCSD, Mel (as most of us call her) continues to learn new tools of the trade and immediately models and passes them on to her colleagues. 6 years ago, she- along with a small group of determined educators- helped to found Integrated Arts and Technology High School: a school committed to developing those precious 21st century skills through the 4C’s.
In those 6 years, Yelena has helped to pioneer countless technology initiatives and practices in our school and district from piloting a 1:1 chromebook environment to training staff on interdisciplinary uses for the Ti-Nspire graphing calculator (and essentially helping our whole math department transition to this device) to identifying and sharing innovative apps for teacher use. If it exists, Yelena has probably used it. She has been equally devoted to developing hands-on experiences and problem-based learning scenarios for her students.
When she’s not busy devouring recent developments in math standards or finding the latest developments in educational technology, Yelena channels her inner soccer mom. She enjoys hiking and camping with her family, appreciates live music (jam bands are her thing) or a solid dystopian novel, and decompresses with her educator friends with some hot Vinyasa yoga.
Her dream for the future is to help new and veteran teachers explore effective pedagogy through tech integration that engages and inspires students while richly and authentically contextualizing curriculum.