21CL Radio

Community and Purpose | Run Your Life #85

My guest today is Melissa McQuaid who is from Toronto, Canada and has been teaching internationally, with her husband Jeff for many years.

My original intention was to have Melissa on my podcast to share some of the great work she’s doing with her grade 3 students in the classroom, in particular, her dedication to creating a classroom culture and environment that is visually rich in meaning and purpose.

As I thought about how I was going to do this interview, I couldn’t help but be drawn to not only Melissa, as a teacher, but also her life journey over the past several years as it has really defined and shaped the person she is today.

Melissa’s husband, Jeff Woodcock, is our elementary head of school. Although she is very supportive of Jeff’s role as leader of our school, Melissa in her own right has carved out a very purposeful path for herself, as an educator in our school.

She has worked very hard to develop a unique teaching style that is focused on visible learning in the classroom in order to accommodate every one of her learners. She carefully models and co-constructs learning with her students on a regular basis and this is one of the many reasons why I feel she is such a great educator.

In today’s episode you are not only going to hear about Melissa, as an educator, but more importantly you are going to hear about some very difficult, yet profoundly important experiences that shaped not only her life but also her husband’s life as well.

Melissa will explain, in detail, both of these experiences, but it’s the first experience she talks about that specifically taught Melissa how powerful a role community can play in changing a person’s life. As Melissa told this story, I really wanted to go into specific examples of how the community that she and her husband were a part of helped to be a major support for them through a very challenging and difficult time. I got sidetracked during this discussion and wasn’t able to dig deeper into how community specifically supported her and Jeff during this time. However, I still wanted to mention and give a shoutout to the wonderful community that they were a part of in Bonn, Germany many years ago.

Melissa’s love of community continues to this day and she is a very active force in bringing people together to celebrate connection, friendship, kindness and joy here at our school here in Saudi Arabia.

I want to thank Melissa for sharing her authentic story in this episode. It’s never easy to talk about things that strike so closely to the heart.

Melissa’s Bio

Melissa McQuaid is an international educator in her eleventh year of teaching, all spent working within the Primary Years Programme. She is passionate about inquiry-based learning and the merits of an education that supports development of the whole child. Walking into her classroom, you will be struck by how well thought out the learning environment is. Her classroom is rich with text, features flexible spaces to support different learners and learning, and is organized with the child’s needs in mind. Developing and nurturing a student’s curiosity and agency are cornerstones of her practice, and have a role in everything she does with learners.

When she was 27 years old Melissa experienced a traumatic, life-threatening situation that forced her to rethink her vision of what she had planned for her future. Described by friends and colleagues as “determined and resolute,” her personal story is about over-coming trauma and embracing many obstacles in search of her happiness. Melissa believes that if you can visualize what you want in life, and work towards that vision, anything is possible.  

Melissa’s time of trauma took place in Germany while she was working at Bonn International School. The rallying and support that came from the BIS community to support her during this difficult time was unforgettable. One way Melissa strives to pay it forward at her current school, The KAUST School, in Saudi Arabia, is by serving as the head of the social committee. In this role, she gives back to the TKS community by uniting and supporting staff and helping to build a positive and supportive school culture. 

Connect With Melissa

Twitter: @MelissaMcQuaid2 

Themes Discussed:

Community, Purpose, Resilience, Visible Learning, Family, International Education