Relationships are the hallmarks of the school development program for Dr. Melissa Montgomery. You can see the excitement in her eyes, hear the passion in her voice when she speaks of what is being accomplished through relationships - between Drury University and Boyd/Berry Elementary School; between pre-service teachers from Drury and at-risk second graders learning to love reading; between professors of education and Drury education majors; and between Drury and the Midtown community in Springfield.
"Relationship-building is very important," Dr. Montgomery emphasizes. "I strongly encourage and assist my students in identifying and developing strategies and activities for building that rapport with the children. It happens pretty naturally. By about October, my students have fallen in love with the second graders they're working with."
Montgomery is a six-year Drury veteran, an assistant professor in the School of Education and Child Development. She teaches Methods of Teaching Reading and Correction of Reading Problems and is responsible for supervising the practicum programs for both classes. That means she works closely in a hands-on way with pre-service teachers, Boyd/Berry administration and staff, and second-grade Boyd/Berry reading students. It's a complex, time-intensive, sometimes overwhelming task, but its value and the gratification it brings are beyond measure. And although the impact can be seen in improved test scores for Boyd/Berry participants as well as praise and success for Drury graduates of the program, Montgomery seems to relish most those victories that are more intangible.
"I just think about the faces of those kids," Montgomery said. "And when they get it, how excited they are to run to Mrs. Becker, their teacher, or to me, and say, 'Look what I've done!' Those are the things that probably mean the most to me - that we've really impacted some kids' lives, hopefully for the future."