Melissa Fike’s eighth-grade math students know that their teacher holds high expectations for them for a reason: She firmly believes they can and will succeed. As chair of the math department at Oakland Middle School in Columbia, Missouri, Fike teaches through investigative learning. Fike organizes her instruction around themes and finds fun, creative ways to encourage students to practice math, including clue games, math trails and cooperative learning activities. When students are confused or absent, Fike posts videos online to help them catch up and ensure no one is left behind. Formative assessments like entrance and exit slips help both Fike and students monitor their progress. Each unit ends with a project that encompasses the objectives for the entire year to date. Fike’s students have shown gains in MAP assessments over the past few years, including significant progress toward closing the achievement gap for minority students, an explicit goal for the school.
Fike’s Professional Learning Community (PLC) meets weekly to review grade-level formative assessments, analyze student work and place students into targeted intervention groups. Fike often works with students one-on-one for additional intervention during “Eagle Hour.” Fike’s PLC has been so instrumental to Oakland’s effective instructional practices that school and university liaisons have visited to observe the group at work. Each month Fike brings building math teachers together in a department meeting to examine formative assessment data and discuss strategies to plug holes. She is also a member of the Oakland Data Team. She serves on the school’s department chair committee and executive council, which deals with student welfare and building support in addition to instructional decisions. A National Board Certified educator, Fike is an advocate for restorative practices and was instrumental in helping Oakland adopt a structured tier system of intervention. She is involved in the district’s focus on Standards Referenced Grading, which she believes will increase student achievement in the classroom, school and district. Student teachers consider Fike an outstanding mentor and support as they move through their training.
Zany, funny, tough but fair, Fike is one of the first teachers students visit when they return after graduation. The inside jokes and mnemonic devices she uses as memory aids stay with her pupils long after eighth grade. In the classroom Fike rarely stands still, sometimes clocking 18,000 steps per day in her 300-square-foot classroom. When she was pregnant, she zipped around the room on a wheeled chair so she could continue to work individually with students without exhausting herself. She writes a personalized holiday card for each student; many come back to visit from high school clutching those cards in their hands.
Fike earned a bachelor’s in secondary math education in 2006 from the University of Missouri Columbia and a master’s in teaching and curriculum in 2013 from Northcentral University.
Press release: Students' Undivided Attention Equals a $25,000 Milken Educator Award for Math Teacher Melissa Fike