Top Teacher Spotlight: Melinda Foglesong at Sam Tasby Middle School

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Top Teacher Spotlight showcases outstanding educators across Dallas ISD who are thriving under the Teacher Excellence Initiative. 

Melinda Foglesong knew by kindergarten that she wanted to be a teacher, and her plan never changed.

Foglesong is a top district teacher with 13 years of experience who is thriving under the Teacher Excellence Initiative, which seeks to identify, encourage, and reward effective teachers by prioritizing and supporting academic excellence. Through the Distinguished Teacher Review Process (DTR), Dallas ISD recognizes teachers who demonstrate leadership, pursue learning opportunities, contribute to the profession of education, and promote academic excellence.

Why do you teach?

I cannot think of a more rewarding career than to be able to come to work each day and help today’s youth learn about the ways of the world around them while assisting them on their journey to become their future selves. I was blessed with many amazing educators in my life that provided me with life-changing experiences that shaped my character, work ethic, morals/values, confidence, accountability, etc., and I hope that years from now I have students who look back and say the same. As cliché as it may sound, I teach to make a difference.

What advice would you give to a first-year teacher?

Take every opportunity you can to learn from those around you. View advice and feedback as a growth tool. And, no matter what, stick with it!

Why are you a DTR Ambassador? Why do you advocate for TEI?

Like many, I was nervous when the district transitioned from PDAS to TEI. I took time that first year to really dive into what TEI was about and it didn’t take long to realize that TEI focused on growing the whole teacher. Whereas PDAS allowed teachers to receive a higher score in each domain as long as the teacher received a higher score on the majority of the indicators within that domain, TEI requires teachers to continue focusing on and growing both their strengths and weaknesses. Essentially, it requires more of the teacher. I was immediately a fan of DTR, realizing that many of the tasks I was already doing outside of the classroom were going to help me find success within the new system. I am a DTR Ambassador because I truly believe that helping others find ways to advance their leadership experiences, lifelong learning opportunities, and contributions to the profession will help Dallas ISD educators as well as the profession as a whole. And, at the end of the day, that is what will improve what is taking place in our schools and ultimately the educational experience of our students.

What has been a challenge for you in teaching and how have you overcome that challenge?

The longer I am in education, the more comfortable I have had to become with change. Earlier on in my career I was often resistant to change, not understanding why it was needed if success was happening. As I’ve stepped into leadership roles, I’ve learned the importance of believing in, and supporting, your campus and district-level leadership in whatever new initiative they roll out. When I have questions, I ask them. When I’m not able to see the big picture, I ask for better explanations. The more confident I have become in my campus administration, the better I’ve been able to accept and believe in the inevitable changes each year.

What goals do you have as a teacher?

My goal is just to be the best teacher I can be each day. Some days I feel like I rock at it and then other days I feel like I fail miserably. But, no matter what, I come back each day ready to do my best and give my all again.

Why is goal setting important as a teacher?

To get the best out of our students, we have to be able to give our best to them. An effective teacher should desire growth over stagnation.  Goals allow us to continue growing and evolving as educators over time, something necessary when our students expect and deserve the best. Goal setting reflects our forwarding thinking and allows us to constantly have a plan to get ourselves, and our students, where we need to be.

What is one truth you need to be reminded of as a teacher?

Students are the doing the best they can each day with what they have. We don’t know what a student has been through that day, or in life, when they come in the building each morning. A child doesn’t wake up planning to have a bad day or to give a teacher a hard time. These students are learning how to control their emotions, they are constantly trying to figure out their place in this world, they often have much different roles at school versus at home, and they have “bad days” just like us adults. Each day they deserve a clean slate and a fresh start.

What do you hope for your students?

I hope that my students know I truly care about their lives, today and in the future. I hope that one day they look back and think “ohhhh, that’s what Coach Foglesong meant.” I hope they leave their experience here at Tasby knowing that they are equipped to take on the world. I hope that they go on to live happy, successful, rewarding lives of their own.

What one piece of advice would you give a student?

I would tell students to internalize the saying: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” It is important that these students know just how capable and deserving they are of whatever they want in life, I would tell them to always dream big and then do whatever they have to do to achieve all their goals. We see students in our classrooms every day that have the potential to change the world, I want them to have the confidence to understand that and then do it.

Do you have any funny or interesting stories from your classroom experience?

I have been so incredibly blessed to work at Tasby the last 11 years. The life of a teacher in a school where students speak over 30 different languages from 80+ different countries is fast, demanding, and constantly changing. However, it is also eye-opening, rewarding, and inspiring. These students have experienced so much more in their short life than I have in the past 35 years, many days it is me learning something from them. 

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