By Noelle H. Lowery
When Melissa Scott moved to Marco Island in July 2013, her focus was family. Her parents — Michael and Vicki Hook — had recently relocated to the area to enjoy their semi-retirement, and Scott, wanting to be a part their daily lives, followed. At the time, she never would have predicted the path she would tread in just nine short months. In April, Scott was named the new principal of Marco Island Academy.
“It has been a crazy journey,” Scott told Coastal Breeze News in a recent interview. “I was really worried when I left Virginia, but it is crazy how life works out.” A native New Yorker, Scott left her post as assistant director of student activities at Robert E. Lee High School in Fairfax County, Virginia, just north of Washington, D.C., after 14 years to move to Southwest Florida.
“MIA was nothing I expected, but everything I ever wanted and didn’t realize it,” added Scott.
MIA founder and Chairwoman Jane Watt is glad Scott took the chance: “Melissa possesses many characteristics that made her the best candidate for the principal position at MIA. She is incredibly bright, creative, hardworking and dedicated. As a teacher, she is absolutely brilliant. I think the most important reason that stood out to me is her passion toward education and her love of students.”
Scott took the helm from former principal George Andriozzi at a time when MIA is graduating its first senior class, has secured its formal accreditation and is preparing for its next round of academic evolution, including a new mentoring program and business department. CBN sat down with Scott to find out more about the woman who will lead MIA to the next level.
Q: Why did you become an educator? Did you always want to be a teacher, and if so why?
A: I wanted to be a teacher before I could even write. I was inspired by my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Bochman…She was our champion. It was the little things she did that made the most impact. I still have the birthday card she gave me with a dollar in it in a scrap book. My mom also was a teacher. I went to a K-12 school, and school was always a safe positive place for me. (My mom) was my angel.
Q: Why high school?
A: I focused on special education at first…I thought my niche was more the kids that feel lost, those that aren’t good at something…I have realized the impact teachers make on these kids…A former student of mine is now at UVA (University of Virginia). He had an assignment in his English class where he had to write a letter to someone who made an impact on his life, and then the students were supposed to read their letters to the person they wrote about. We spoke through FaceTime, and he wrote a letter to me. I was overwhelmed.
Q: How and when did you come to MIA?
A: When I moved here in July, I heard about MIA…I met George (Andreozzi) and Jane (Watt), and they only had a part-time position for a reading teacher available at that time. I helped create a position, and I led the accreditation process which turned into assistant principal position… MIA is completely different from my old school. I came from a large school public school, but I’ve learned it doesn’t matter size. It matters people. I felt so comfortable immediately at MIA, and I wanted to meet the kids right away…It is a really special place…It is about the school and the students. I feel blessed and lucky to be a part of it everyday.
Q: What does it mean to you to be named principal?
A: People rarely get to actualize their dreams. We all have them, and I always wanted to push myself to do more. I had to prove it to myself that I could do more. This is like a dream come true. Other people have different fairy tales, but this is mine.
Q: What are the challenges the school faces at this time?
A: I think change and transition is very hard, and leadership changing immediately is a definitely a challenge. But we are really working hard to make it smooth as a community. We want to be proactive rather than reactive, and we want to offer our students every opportunity. We starting a mentoring and futures program in which everyone on staff will be a mentor. This is a major piece of what I want to implement here. Faculty members will be paired with a group of less than 10 students so they will a lot of individual time with the students. We also are focusing more on sequencing and adding more electives for students. They will have more options and a voice in how their schedules are created. It will let the kids really understand their path. These programs will guide them through process.
Q: If you could have dinner with any five people in history, who would you have dinner with and why?
A: I am a big fan of “To Kill A Mockingbird,” so Atticus Finch, Jem, Scout, Calipernia and Boo Radley are going to have a seat at the table.
Q: Ann Frank once said that in spite of everything, she believed people were basically good. Do you agree? Disagree? Why?
A: I absolutely agree. I think you can find good in every situation. It is all about your perspective. I always look a situation from someone else’s point of view, and some times you have to realize what someone is going through. I think every kid has good in them. You just have to find it, and it comes out in the most amazing ways.