KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – Melanie Dawn Walls has always been around education. As the daughter of a music teacher, her father’s love for teaching and the relationships he was able to forge with his students, was enthralling to her.
“What an awesome thing to do in life,” Walls said she thought as a youngster. “I think from a young child, there’s nothing else I ever wanted to be. I knew I wanted to be a teacher.”
She has been a teacher for nearly 20 years now and she’s looking for the next challenge to improve the future of the youth through education. The 2010 Clay County Teach of the Year filed to run for Clay County Superintendent of schools.
“I’m a math teacher. I understand numbers,” Walls said. “I also understand that numbers don’t give us the whole picture. There’s so much more to education.”
One of her biggest ideas is there needs to be more focus placed on student attendance and that a student with sub-par attendance shouldn’t be able to engage in extracurricular activities. She is also a proponent of expanded non-traditional school options, not just the G.E.D. program, for students who have issues in their lives which may have adversely affected attendance.
Walls also wants to expand the student leadership within the county. Each school has a student council.
“We are Clay County. Let’s get the student leaders together and talk about what they can do in Clay County as a whole,” said Walls. “Clay County Association of student leadership. We would offer some additional leadership training to the students so they can learn what it means to lead. I would love to tie in with our business community.”
Walls wants not only to improve test scores and graduation rates; she wants to improve the quality of people that Clay County schools produce. She has multiple ideas on integration with the community, in business and other aspects of local life.
“The north end of the county has no idea who I am, yet,” said Walls of her burgeoning campaign. “My students here, my co-workers here, this is a small community here. This is a family. They know who I am.” She plans to change that lack of exposure over the next few months by taking evenings and weekends to spread her message throughout Clay County.
“We’ve gotten to the point in Clay County where we need an educator to step in. I’m an educator, not a politician. I will always be an educator. I will never be a politician.”
She began teaching in Clay County at Orange Park High as a math teacher. Following that, she taught at the Santa Fe Watson center, which is an extension of Santa Fe College in Gainesville.
In 2005, she got a job at Keystone Heights, where she still teaches. She also continued to teach at Santa Fe.
She has been active in multiple extracurricular activities as well.
“I think I see things a different way. Teachers see things one way…administration might see things a completely different way from us,” said Walls. “I started just seeing some things that I just can’t agree with as an educator.”
Walls believes not only are teachers preparing students to pass an exam or to get ready for college. She believes that teachers are preparing students for life.