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Melicher named WFPS Teacher of the Year

Harwood Elementary first-grade teacher Jean Melicher is swarmed by students after being named West Fargo School District Teacher of the Year last Friday. Dave Samson/The Pioneer

On Friday, April 9, Jean Melicher was honored as the 2010-11 West Fargo School District Teacher of the Year.

A first-grade teacher at Harwood Elementary School for 19 years, Melicher is planning on retiring next year. But as a college student years ago working on her final six credits before graduation, Melicher dropped everything to marry her husband, Kevin, and follow him to optometry school in Chicago.

Melicher's parents tried desperately to coax their daughter into finishing her degree before getting married.

"Not a chance," she said.

It wasn't until four years later, after moving back to the Fargo-Moorhead area, that Melicher was asked by her husband when she was thinking about finishing her degree.

"I enrolled the next day and loved every minute of being an older than average student," she said.

Two days before her graduation in 1987, Melicher was hired by current West Fargo Assistant Superintendent Louise Dardis to work at Westside Elementary School.

"I felt like the luckiest person in the world," she said.

Melicher worked two years at Westside before transferring to Harwood.

Besides thanking her husband, Melicher pointed out several people who had a hand in spurring her career. Two of those are her former fifth- and sixth-grade teachers, Amy Nelson and Ruth Sorkness.

Now retired, both are "active as ever," Melicher said. "I love those ladies. They made me realize as a (student) that being a teacher was pretty cool."

According to the ballot for Teacher of the Year completed by Melicher's Harwood colleagues: "In the wonderful world of education, there are none more dedicated, committed or deserving of this award than Jean Melicher. She is the epitome of the master teacher and her many skills are emblematic of the qualities required to represent her peers as West Fargo Teacher of the Year."

The School Board will recognize Melicher during an upcoming school board meeting.

Melicher noted that teaching has changed a lot since she began more than 20 years ago, but one thing has never changed: "Kids do want to learn," she said.