#MNPSVoices Melissa Glasgow of Cockrill Elementary

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Melissa Glasgow has mastered the skill of holding the attention of a classroom filled with eager 1st graders.

The 2009 Teacher of the Year, who teaches at Cockrill Elementary, has a secret weapon in the form of a teacher’s assistant that is more valuable to her students than just the typical bird brain.

Glasgow enjoys the support of her 21-year-old cockatiel, Beatrice, to lend emotional support and be a good listener for her first grade students.

“She is like my co-teacher, the kids love her,” Glasgow said. “They love to read her books and their sight words. They even write letters to her. Every once in a while the students will find a ‘nibble’ on the edge of their paper, and to my first graders that means Beatrice has signed their work.”

Some may wonder why a cockatiel, but Glasgow says the animal is a great companion animal to children. For 13 years, Glasgow has taught 1st grade and the students love the bird, and even celebrates Beatrice’s birthday every January. The children get an orientation at the beginning of the year on appropriate behavior with Beatrice.

“She whistles and talks to the kids, and says, ‘okay,’ ‘pretty girl’ and ‘bye-bye’ as some of her favorite words. There have been transformational moments with the children,” Glasgow said, adding that Beatrice also enjoys some human favorites, “She loves Lay’s potato chips and vanilla wafers,” she continued.

Glasgow said she has always had a passion for work in early education. She said she clearly sees growth in students who shift from learning-to-read to reading-to-learn. 

“It is so fascinating to see the shift from teaching the foundational skills to the application of the skills,” Glasgow said. “There is so much growth that you see within the year both physically and developmentally. They come in knowing letters, sounds and a few sight words, but by the end of the year they are reading complex text. They are very excited about learning and it is rewarding to see their growth. I can see my work.”

The veteran teacher has seen a lot of changes since she started teaching in 2000.

“All the critical thinking and collaboration, my role now is more as a guide than just standing in front of students and having them watch me teach,” she said. “This allows the kids to think more deeply and be hands-on. These skills benefits the child for life. They are ready to communicate and express themselves. They are more responsible for their learning and take ownership.”

After a nearly 20-year career in teaching, Glasgow still has more years of service to offer, and shared that her biggest wish for MNPS comes from the African proverb: It takes a village to raise a child.

“I wish more adults and parents were available to support our MNPS students,” she said. “Adults could come in, mentor, tutor or just be a lunch buddy. Education involves all of us.”