OSZ Influencer of the Week: Melinda Gerardi, Water Spring Elementary

PE paraprofessional Melinda Gerardi has received a scholarship that will allow her to complete her elementary education degree.

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Melinda Gerardi, the PE paraprofessional at Water Spring Elementary School, has been awarded a $1,320 Melody Burton Scholarship. This award is administered by the Human Resources Department and funded by a grant from the Foundation for Orange County Public Schools. Gerardi will use this scholarship to complete her elementary education degree through the Pathways Program at Rollins College.

At WSES, she assists Coach Michael Brouty with various activities and plans her own outdoor lessons.


What brought you to your school?

One of the PE coaches I worked with at my first school told me about Water Springs opening and how (it was) a brand-new school hiring for all positions. I decided to take the opportunity to help open a new elementary school, and I am so glad I did.


What do you love most about your school?

I love the overall atmosphere of my school. We have a wonderful administration team, and I work with some amazing people. I have received so much support from my coworkers and administration as I’ve started my classes this semester.


What is your motivation?

My motivation for continuing my education is to become a full teacher myself. I have had a lifelong dream to become a teacher, and with the help of my family, my school and my coworkers, I am finally able to make that dream come true.


What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The kids are the most rewarding part of my job. Watching these kids learn and grow is an amazing privilege. This is my fourth year as a PE para, so I’ve been able to watch kids grow into these wonderful and bright individuals. 


What do you like to do in your spare time?

In my spare time I love to spend time with my family. I also enjoy camping with my husband and my son, as well as reading as many books as I can. With going back to school, some of my spare time is spent studying as well.  


Who was your favorite teacher when you were in school? Why?    

I had quite a few favorite teachers over the years, and they all played a part in my wanting to become a teacher myself. One who immediately came to mind is Mrs. Kittrell; she was a teacher of mine when I was a senior in high school, and the love and passion she put into teaching was inspiring. Mrs. Decker, Miss Wilson, Mrs. Hilley, Mr. Nicolas and Mr. Simpson were also very influential teachers while I was in school.


When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Why?

When I was a child, I knew wanted to be a teacher. Ever since kindergarten, I wanted to teach and change lives. As I got older, I decided elementary education was the age range I wanted to teach, and I am excited to have the chance.


What is your favorite children’s book and why?

When I was a child, my favorite book was “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” – it was the first book I read on my own. There are a lot of great children’s books today, but it made my heart so happy when my son also ended up loving “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom,” too.


What are your hobbies?

I enjoy reading many kinds of books, going to theme parks, cooking and camping. I do some sewing, as well, which is fun and relaxing.


If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?

I would love to be able to fly. Being able to avoid major highways and getting places faster would be awesome!


If you could only listen to three bands or artists for the rest of your life, what would they be and why?

Bon Jovi, Backstreet Boys and New Kids on the Block. All three have had songs of importance throughout my life, and all three bands have music that make my day.


How long have you been at your school and with OCPS?

I have been with OCPS for four years and at Water Spring for three of those. I plan on staying at Water Spring as long as possible.



Amy Quesinberry

Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.

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