Shortly after graduating, Melissa Duluc (MA in Foreign Languages, Concentration in French and Spanish, 2018) began teaching Spanish at McLean High School as a long-term substitute. She did such a great job that she was hired for a permanent position begininning in 2019. Melissa’s teaching emphasizes diversity, inclusion and social justice, an approach she studied in her graduate courses at Mason while she was also deepening her expertise in linguistics, literature and cultural studies.
When she started, McLean High School had recently seen a significant increase in heritage speakers of Spanish. A heritage speaker of Spanish herself, Melissa knew that the beginning Spanish courses weren't challenging enough for students who spoke Spanish at home. Instead, she encouraged them to enroll in higher level Spanish courses at McLean, which led to rapid growth in AP Spanish enrollment at the school. Melissa's inititative resulted in higher academic achievement across all demographics as well as a strong sense of community. For the heritage speakers of Spanish, enrolling in advanced and AP Spanish courses has become a gateway to enrollment in advanced academic courses in other subjects as well.
Melissa credits her graduate study with preparing her for her job: "Mason’s MCL graduate program taught me how to approach and teach language to diverse learners. Taking courses like Heritage Language Education and Task-Based Language Teaching really set me up for success as a language teacher because I believe I understand my students’ needs at a much deeper level. Every professor I had in MCL valued inclusion and created a positive learning environment, which motivated me to want the same for my own classes."
Being a new teacher during the pandemic was obviously a challenge and there were many tough times, but Melissa worked to establish strong relationships with her students despite the limitations of distance learning. She was keenly aware that Covid-19 impacted some students more than others, and she made it a priority to ensure that her Spanish classes were as equitable as possible by calling students after school to check in on them, ensuring their WiFi was functioning properly before classes, and helping her native Spanish speakers sign up for the AP exams.
Melissa’s efforts and success are appreciated by students, parents, colleagues and administrators, and in June she was named Fairfax County Public Schools Outstanding Secondary New Teacher of 2021. This award is given to one new secondary teacher in all of FCPS who has demonstrated outstanding leadership, maintains equity at the center of their work, and high academic achievement in their classes. Melissa is grateful for the award and continues to make her students and social justice a priority: "There is a lot of work to keep on doing, but I am proud to keep doing what I love the most and make a difference where I can. What an honor! ¡Qué honor!”
All of us at MCL are so proud of her and have no doubt she will continue to make a difference.
June 14, 2021