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December 14, 2012

Methuen High teacher named top 10 in country

"What separates Melissa from a lot of teachers is her willingness to do whatever it takes to have her students succeed." Joseph Harb, Methuen High science department chair

METHUEN — Melissa Tobin, a high school science teacher, has jumped onto tables and danced around the room to explain a point.

Her teaching style, doing whatever it takes to reach a student and make a connection, has made an impression on those who have taken her classes.

It shows in other ways, too.

Tobin, who has been at Methuen High for 10 years, has won a Claes Nobel Educator of the Year award for 2012, an honor that goes to 10 top teachers in the country and is given by the National Society of High School Scholars. Students nominate teachers who have influenced their lives, and the committee, based in Atlanta, selects top educators every year.

“I was shocked,” said Tobin, 35.

“It’s nice to know the NSHSS recognizes the students’ input, and that a group of students put themselves out there and publicly said, ‘This teacher had a big influence on my life,’” she said. “It feels so good to know you’re making a difference.”

She also was nominated as an educator with distinction in 2010 and 2011, according to the NSHSS.

Tobin, originally from New Jersey, studied microbiology at the University of New Hampshire, where she met her husband, Jeff. Two of her UNH professors stand out to her not only because of the subject, which she is passionate about, but for their styles.

A virology professor would weave into his classroom discussion household and real life examples of bacterial contamination. The stories were both gross and entertaining, she said, and they stuck with her years later. “He brought it back to real life and that’s why I really enjoyed it,” she said.

Another professor talked about the role microorganisms play in brewing beer, how the yeast eats sugars from the grain, excretes ethyl alcohol and creates the carbonation. “When you’re 21 and in college, that’s the coolest job ever,” she said.

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