New Brunswick teacher first Canadian inducted into Jostens Renaissance Hall of Fame

Kelly Lawson photo Melissa Wright, with the Kennebecasis Valley High School, will be the first Canadian inducted into the Jostens Renaissance Hall of Fame.

PENNFIELD – The shock of being the first Canadian inducted into Jostens Renaissance Hall of Fame has yet to subside for Melissa Wright.

“I was completely speechless; I had no clue. It still hasn’t set in,” she said.

Achieving an accomplishment this substantial is something Wright never expected to be honoured with. Coming from a small town in New Brunswick, she never believed it was possible.

“Growing up in Pennfield, you don’t really think you’re going to be inducted into any hall of fame. I just feel really honoured and blessed to be among these other educators,” she said.

Recognition as substantial as an induction into a hall of fame is something we often witness, or hear about, but doubt we will ever experience ourselves. But Wright’s work as a passionate educator continuously striving to make all students feel welcome and safe speaks for itself.

She is a three-time New Brunswick Student Leadership Association Richard Harvey Spirit Award winner, was awarded the New Brunswick Student Leadership Association Tom Hanley Advisor Award in 2014, Jostens Renaissance Make It Matter Award in the same year, and received the Leader of Distinction Award from the Canadian Student Leadership Association in 2018.

“This (induction) is most special,” said Wright.

Being recognized for her work by educators from another country is huge for her. It’s the kind of recognition that has the ability to make a noticeable impact to her students and Kennebecasis Valley High School where she’s taught mathematics since 2005. Wright considers the school a team, and anything that benefits the team is a great thing to her.

Her desire to become an educator began after meeting her Grade 10 French teacher.

“Heather Malco really stood out to me,” she said.

Since then, Wright has had the opportunity to work toward achieving their shared goal of creating an environment and culture within schools where students feel they belong and matter. She is the president of the New Brunswick Student Leadership Association (NBSLA) where Malco is the secretary.

“It’s all really come full circle,” said Wright.

Just as Malco watched students like Wright blossom and succeed in their endeavors, Wright has had the same privilege with her own students. She says “seeing the joy it brings to their face” never gets old.

She’s a teacher who is willing to go above and beyond for her students, because she cares. Some gestures may seem small, but they make all the difference.

Wright says that something as small as taking the time to know your students’ names can go a long way.

“I’ve had students tell me they’ve had teachers for years and were never once called by their name,” said Wright.

She believes in the importance of showing students they matter, and that their improvements, big or small, are something to be celebrated.

Kennebecasis Valley High School has introduced improvement awards to show students that just because they may not be the best in a class, doesn’t mean their hard work isn’t seen.

“I’ve had students share that they ‘didn’t even think anyone knew they were here,’” she said with a heavy heart. “It means everything to some kids.”

Other efforts Wright believes work to create an encouraging and welcoming school culture is celebrating accomplishments from outside school and the establishment of an academic excellence club.

“When they know teachers care, that’s when you get them to want to come to school,” said Wright.

In a post-pandemic world, positivity and connection in schools are more important than ever.

“We need to bring that connection back.”

With continuous effort to build a school climate that makes all students feel they belong somewhere, she has changed lives, and made history.

“Don’t think just because you’re from New Brunswick you can’t do great things … I just hope it helps (her students) see that,” she said.

An induction ceremony for the Jostens Renaissance Hall of Fame is scheduled for next month.

heatherknight@stcroixcourier.ca