Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Virginia's Best Teacher ... And So Much More

My good and great friend Melanie Almeder, one of the best teachers anybody ever knew, is being recognized for just that. The state Council of Higher Education has picked Mel to receive its 2011 Outstanding Faculty Award. She is a tenured English professor at Roanoke College in Salem.

Below is the official press release, which doesn't tell you who the real Melanie Almeder is, the one who has more courage, strength, commitment, goodness, understanding, intelligence, curiosity and will than just about anybody I have ever known. Mel has spent the last year fighting a life-threatening illness and she has demonstrated every one of those characteristics on a daily basis.

She deserves this award, but there's oh so much more to this miracle of a woman.

"The award, which recognizes superior accomplishments in teaching, research and public service, is Virginia’s highest honor for faculty at the state’s public and private colleges and universities. Almeder joins 11 other award recipients, all faculty members from colleges and universities across Virginia.

“'Dr. Almeder is a wonderful teacher who is dedicated to her students,' Roanoke President Michael Maxey says. 'She is an accomplished poet and scholar as well. We are fortunate to have her on our campus.'

"At Roanoke College, Almeder teaches poetry writing, Native American literature, contemporary novel, and special topics courses, including a contemporary culture and literature course, 'The Writer in Politics.'

Almeder's poems have been widely published in a range of journals, including The Georgia Review, Poetry, Five Points, 32 Poems, Seneca Review, The Comstock Review and American Literary Review. She has been nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize. Her first book of poems On Dream Street, won the Tupelo Press Editor’s Prize and was published in February 2007. The book was a finalist in for the Walt Whitman Award.

“'One of the things I love about teaching and learning in the Roanoke College community is the ethic that our learning is not distinct from our community lives, that the two inform each other in vital ways,' Almeder says. Almeder, who received her BA in English from the University of Virginia, MFA in poetry from the University of Massachusetts and PhD in contemporary fiction from the University of Florida, was recognized with the Roanoke College Dean's Council Exemplary Teaching Award in 2003. She also has been honored three times as a finalist in the rising star category of the Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award sponsored by SCHEV.

She and the 11 other recipients will be recognized during a ceremony and luncheon February 17 at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond. Prior to the event, the recipients will be introduced on the floor of the General Assembly.

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