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Ana Mellos will teach geometry and algebra this fall at the high school she attended in Maryland.
When Ana Mellos was
in preschool, the children in her class posed for a video in which they
held up signs announcing what they wanted to be when they grew up.
Mellos briefly considered choosing “princess,” but she instead went with
the career she felt drawn to even then: Teacher.
She’s never changed her mind.
Today, Mellos is a new Honors graduate of the University of Delaware
with a degree in mathematics education and the recipient of a highly
selective Knowles Teaching Fellowship
to help support and mentor her as she embarks on her dream career. The
prestigious fellowship is awarded each year to 35 high school science
and math teachers nationwide.
“Winning the Knowles Fellowship is like winning the lottery for a
beginning math teacher,” said Michelle Cirillo, associate professor of
mathematical sciences with a joint appointment in the School of
Education. “Unlike the lottery, however, the Knowles Teacher Initiative
has a rigorous, multi-step selection process, and Ana is most deserving
of this amazing opportunity. She is a hard-working, bright, enthusiastic
and caring person who has everything it takes to become a great high
school math teacher.”
Mellos, who will begin teaching geometry and algebra this fall at her
former high school near Odenton, Maryland, said she can never remember a
time when she didn’t want to be a teacher. Her classes and
student-teaching experiences while at UD — including a Winter Session
spent as a long-term substitute at her old high school — only reinforced
her career choice.
“To me, teaching is a very purposeful thing,” she said. “When you
think about the opportunity you have to really touch students’ lives,
and then those students go on to touch others, it’s so rewarding.”
Mellos’ love of teaching is matched by her love of math, which she
said “has always just clicked for me” in the same way that she enjoys
solving puzzles and finding new ways of looking at problems. Not all
students feel the same way about the subject, she acknowledged, and she
hopes to take up the challenge of changing some minds.
“My biggest goal is to make math more fun and inviting for my
students,’ she said. “Solving problems, developing critical thinking
skills, feeling empowered when you figure out a solution — I think we
can all see ourselves as ‘math people’ with the right encouragement.”
Just as Mellos is looking forward to encouraging her students, the
Knowles program is designed to support and encourage its teaching
fellows. The fellowship provides about $150,000 of support during the
first five years of a new teacher’s career, including mentoring,
professional development, classroom supplies and continuing education
Cirillo invited UD math education alumni who had won Knowles
fellowships to talk to current students last year, and what Mellos heard
from them and from Cirillo made her decide to apply. At first, she
said, she was concerned that the application process might be too
time-consuming with her other commitments, and she felt that the odds
were against her being selected.
“But I realized that this is such an amazing opportunity, such a
unique opportunity, that I had to try for it,” she said. “There’s just a
wealth of resources for us that are so valuable, especially the chance
to network with others in my cohort and have experienced teachers as
She and the other new fellows will attend a conference in July and,
in addition to having an adviser for the cohort, will be matched
one-on-one for professional mentoring. Mellos plans to focus her first
year of teaching on getting to know her students and developing her
classroom skills before beginning graduate coursework, probably during
her second year of teaching.
Cirillo calls the professional development and other support provided
by the fellowship “unlike any other program in the country for
early-career teachers.” She works with her students every year to inform
them about the opportunity, and UD applicants have been remarkably
“I’m so pleased that the Knowles Foundation, for the fifth time in
five years, has found that another one of our secondary mathematics
education graduates is equipped to contribute to their national network
of STEM teachers solving difficult problems and serving our nation’s
students,” she said.
Article by Ann Manser; photo courtesy of Ana Mellos
Published July 9, 2021
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