Melissa Vital-Liggans comes from a long line of educators. She’s one of 13 teachers in her family, having started her career in special education. “I always want to help those who need the most help,” she offered. Mrs. Vital-Liggnas says it was fulfilling but says she wanted a challenge. The challenge was satisfied when she began teaching elementary school math, and she found her niche. Now she’s in year 22 of teaching, seven with University View Academy. With a career that long there’s bound to be change, and there was last year.
Mrs. Vital-Liggans switched to teaching middle school math to seventh-graders. “It was a big learning curve for me, but the team helped me,” referring to her fellow middle school math teachers. “I had to learn. I really had to study math,” she admitted. And the switch to middle school wasn’t lost on her students. One of Mrs. Vital-Liggans favorite sayings to her class is, “Mistakes are proof that you’re trying.” Many times her students would say, “Keep trying.” What helped was when Mrs. Vital-Liggans relied on two of her students to help her navigate the seven-grade curriculum. “Now, I’m very confident in teaching seventh-grade math and can make a difference in test scores in a positive way,” she offered. “I would like to see 70 to 75 percent to be at mastery or above,” she stated.
One of the ways she works toward that goal is through her relationships with her student’s parents. Mrs. Vital-Liggans holds live sessions with parents so they can understand the math concepts she’s teaching the kids. Or, as she says, “Let me help you so you can better help your student.” She also offers to tutor her students almost any time of the day. “If they are not successful, then I’m not successful as a teacher,” she offered.
However, Hurricane Ida that struck less than a month after school began, threatens that success. Mrs. Vital-Liggans said it’s caused more disruption for students at UVA than the current COVID-19 pandemic. Power, internet outages, and students and families displaced are widespread. She reached out to her students to “… let them know we’re with them,” but confided that it’d take time for some to get back to normal. Mrs. Vital-Liggans said she spoke to one family who described the severe damage to their home but said it would be better for their student to be back in school. “Getting her back to a routine will be good,” they said to Mrs. Vital-Liggans.