Melanie NarduzziHigh School Teacher - Kawartha District Pine Ridge School Board
Melanie's Story :
It is an incredible honour to be in this group of women. When I was first notified that I was nominated I read through the stories of the women who are already part of this group and I did not feel like I belonged. I wanted to decline the nomination, and then I thought about my high school students, and what I try to instill in them everyday: push yourself, try something new, take a smart risk. It was a student who nominated me – and it felt hypocritical to decline.
So here I am writing this!
When thinking about my life and how I inspire others I can’t help but to think of my two children and the students I teach as a high school teacher. I asked the student who nominated me why she did so, and she said it was because she felt like I cared if my students do well. I am glad she felt this way because it is true. I care about the people around me and I am invested in their well being. I feel like if we show each other kindness, empathy and understanding everyone benefits – the recipient and the giver. Imagine what our communities would be like if we all took the time to be kind to others.
A friend of mine has a poster in her front entrance that reads “Work hard and be nice.” The first time I saw it, I was struck by how much it resonated with me. Could it be that simple? What if we all did just that? Worked hard and were kind to others. I sat on this for a few days and it kept coming back into my mind. When my young children were fighting, I helped them be nice to each other and they worked their problems out. When my grade 10 students were working on reading a difficult article and complaining about having to think so much, I told them “thinking is hard work, don’t be afraid of it”, and slowly with perseverance the answers came. When I felt overwhelmed and like I had too many things to accomplish in my professional and family life, I took a deep breath and just told myself to be nice to my family (who often take the brunt of my emotions when I am stressed) and work hard on one thing at a time. I felt better. This simple phrase gave me something to focus on and continues to be my mantra.
You can’t ask much more of yourself or others but to do your best and be kind. I have had many opportunities in my teaching career: I have taught in a remote fly in community in Nunavut, I have taught internationally in Colombia and China working with students from very wealthy families, I have taught at-risk students and also in main-stream “regular” classrooms in Peterborough and surrounding areas. Although these are incredibly diverse cohorts of students, they would all benefit from the message of kindness and hard work. It took me 40 years to find my life’s motto, and it may not stay with me forever – but right now it works for me. It is important to slow down and show others you care by working hard and being nice.
Imagine the possibilities if everyone did just that.