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

Melinda Gerardi is the physical education paraprofessional at Water Spring Elementary.

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Melinda Gerardi is the physical education paraprofessional at Water Spring Elementary. She assists the school’s physical education coach in activities, class control and working with students. As coach, she also leads classes on her own and runs activities of her choosing. Gerardi received recently the Melody Burton Scholarship.

What brought you to your school?

A physical education coach at the first elementary school I worked at asked if I would be interested in transferring over to a brand-new school, which is now my home school, Water Spring Elementary. It was exciting to be a part of opening a new school, and I am so glad I became an Otter. 

What do you love most about your school?

We have a very supportive administration team, which makes the school environment nice to be in. I have been getting a lot of support from my co-workers and administration on my journey toward my elementary education degree. 

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

I love getting to work with every student in the school. As a physical education paraprofessional, I have the chance to work with every grade level and see what age range I work best with.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love to spend time with my family. I also love traveling, camping and reading as many books as I can. 

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

I had a lot of teachers I loved as I went through school, but Mrs. Decker, my kindergarten teacher, comes to mind first. Mrs. Decker is the reason I wanted to become a teacher, and I feel like her influence is what helped me to keep this dream my entire academic life.

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

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

What is your favorite children’s book and why?

As 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 wonderful 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 all kinds of books, going to theme parks with my husband and son, going to craft shows with my parents, cooking, camping and traveling. 

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

This is a hard choice, but I would have to say Bon Jovi, Backstreet Boys and Metallica. Bon Jovi and the Backstreet Boys have had songs that have been with me my entire life and I listen to all the time. Metallica is the band that gave my husband and I our wedding song, so they hold a special place in my heart. 

What was your go-to lunch as an elementary student? 

I generally always had PB&J every day. I remember loving “Dunkaroos” as my favorite special treat. 

Who was your best friend when you were in school and why? Are you still in touch?

My very first best friend I met on our first day of kindergarten; we were both too shy to talk to anyone else and became friends fast. Jenna and I have known each other for (more than) 30 years, and (although) we do not get to see each other much, we are still in touch. 

What were your extracurricular activities as a student? Did you win any accolades or honors?

I was a very musical child growing up. I did chorus and piano lessons in elementary school, moved on to concert band in middle school and participated in marching band in high school. I was the clarinet section leader my senior year, and our marching band, “The Sound of the Braves,” went to many competitions during my time in school. 

What does it mean to you to earn the Melody Burton Scholarship? 

It truly means a lot to me to have won the Melody Burton Scholarship. This scholarship helps ease the financial side of education, so I am able to focus on my studies. 



Annabelle Sikes

News Editor Annabelle Sikes was born in Boca Raton and moved to Orlando in 2018 to attend the University of Central Florida. She graduated from UCF in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in sociology. Her past journalism experiences include serving as a web producer at the Orlando Sentinel, a reporter at The Community Paper, managing editor for NSM Today, digital manager at Centric Magazine and as an intern for the Orlando Weekly.

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