After her first year at college, Melissa Bergman’s summer job changed her life and her career path. As she taught kindergarten-aged kids at a summer day camp, a light went on and she knew what she wanted to do.
“It felt right from the very first second,” said Bergman, 33.
She transferred to Syracuse University’s education program and started on the path to where she is today: a 6th grade humanities teacher in the Delta Program at M.S. 54. After eight years of teaching at the school, there is no place she would rather be.
“I am really lucky to be at a great school,” she said. “I love, love, love this place. As soon as I walked into the building I knew this is where I wanted to be.”
The kids and parents love her being there, too.
“Her energy is contagious,” said parent Liz Eisen. “Her commitment and love of teaching are immediately apparent. Her students seem excited to be learning with her and show real interest in the subject matter, both in and outside of the classroom.”
Bergman not only wants her approximately 90 kids to learn about the world, but she also wants to get them interested in the subjects.
“One of the main reasons I wanted to be a teacher is because I wanted learning to be fun,” she said. “I wanted my kids to be excited.”
Bergman integrates music, food and outings in her curriculum. The most successful trip she took was to a Hindu Temple, where the students were allowed to witness the puja (a religious ceremony) and later had an Indian vegetarian meal. This adventure coincided with the class’ study of Eastern religions and the different Hindu gods and goddesses.
Taking an idea from a veteran teacher, Bergman started putting together mini festivals. At the end of each unit, kids bring in a dish from that area of the world to share with the class. Sometimes they create an art project, too, or put on a play—like when the class studied the Renaissance and staged Romeo and Juliet.
“She is very energetic and dynamic and her students adore her,” said parent Laurie Goldman in an email. “She is, without a doubt, the best teacher my son has had in seven years of public school in NYC.”
Bergman also invigorated the school’s track team. Where there used to be an unorganized group of about eight kids, the team now has 80 to 100 students from all grades, playing non-competitive games and jogging around Central Park. Bergman herself loves running, so it felt natural to share that pastime with the students.
She even connects her interests in theater, pop and rock to student work.
“One student told me about this Coldplay song, ‘King For a Day,’ which is all about being king and traveling to Jerusalem,” she said. “So we played the song in class and read the words. They were like, ‘Oh, that’s what it means.’ I like making it all connected for them.”
Outside of school, Berman likes to take a long summer trip every year to some country she has never been before. This year, she is torn between India and Israel. Either way, she will bring photos and ideas about that culture to inspire and share with next year’s students.
6th Grade Humanities, M.S. 54 Delta Program
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