After entering the first grade hallway at Protsman Elementary School students are immediately surrounded by colors and decorations of all sort. Amongst all the colors and chaos, however, one classroom stands out amidst the rest--Mrs. Melissa Dillard’s.
Dillard, who has been teaching at Protsman for 12 years. has created quite the name for herself in the teaching world. Her enthusiasm and positive outlook in the classroom have helped her build her “Seusstastic Classroom Insights” blog while also gaining hundreds of thousands of followers on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.
“I provide ideas for any teacher that happens to be a follower of mine. I get a lot of new teachers, teachers in college and even veteran teachers that need fresh ideas, so I’ll just [post] little snapshots of the inside of my classroom and stuff that I do. I like to change things from year to year. I am giving teachers all over the world ideas,” Dillard said.
Dillard’s positive classroom management philosophy is centered around a reward system she has developed. When students do good deeds, even the smallest of deeds, she will reward them with a “fuzzy” that students can collect and later exchange for coupons. Not the types of coupons someone would take to the grocery store, but instead coupons that can be exchanged for small prizes such as sitting in the teacher’s chair.
“[I recognize] all of the good behaviors and the things I like, and then getting those students that are more of a behavior issue to see they’re getting rewarded for doing the right thing. [Winning the coupons] is a huge deal for them. They work really hard in my classroom to earn those,” Dillard said.
Dillard’s success began during a very rough patch of her life. Every person has a different way of getting their minds off of certain issues, and for Dillard the teaching blog was exactly that.
“I started my teaching blog in 2011. I was struggling with infertility and was looking for an outlet to keep my mind busy,” Dillard said. “I just started blogging and got noticed by a couple of other bloggers and it just went from there. Right now the teaching blogger world and the site ‘teachers pay teachers’ that I sell on are so saturated that I got in at a really good time.”
Nonetheless, Dillard has been able to turn a tough time in her life into excitement in and out of the classroom. Students in her classroom are constantly moving around, whether it’s working in groups or working on iPads. The classroom itself is filled with numerous bright colors and decorations all over the walls.
Whether one just simply walks into Dillard’s classroom or sits down and talks to her about her teaching style, one thing is clear--it takes dozens of out-of-school hours to create all of this. Most teachers would not take this much effort to make the curriculum more exciting, so the simple question for Dillard is “why?” “I just enjoy making a difference in [students’] lives and seeing their reactions. I like helping kids in other classrooms all over, not just in my own. The kids in my classroom are my kids and it makes me feel good about myself and what I do and what I contribute to education,” Dillard said.
Not only has the positive classroom environment brightened the students’ days, but also parents notice how excited their students are to go to school.
“[Parents] love it. I have parents who adopt a similar system at home. They might not use fuzzies, they might use legos or tally marks, but they definitely like the structure and the feedback they get from the kids. The kids love coming to school and they talk about warm fuzzies all the time. They just enjoy that I actually take the time to do all of that, because I don’t have to,” Dillard said.
One things above all is obvious, Dillard loves her job. Whenever she is asked about her classroom, students or teaching style she smiles from cheek to cheek and cannot wait to share all her accomplishments and ideas. Students actually look forward to going into class, and that is not something to be overlooked.