Toni Melton

               It is often said that food carries an emotional memory…that certain aromas and flavors make an imprint in our minds and have the powerful ability to return us to a particular place, person, or experience. At Licking R-VIII School District, Mrs. Toni Melton uses the magic and medicine of cooking to connect with students with varied abilities. Whether working directly on life skills in the classroom, encouraging entrepreneurship through Triple A Catering, or cooking for staff celebrations and athletic events, Mrs. Melton reaches the hearts and minds of staff and students. For these reasons, Mrs. Melton is recognized as November’s Spotlight Staff Member of the Month!

                Mrs. Melton graduated from high school in her home state of Illinois. She attended College of the Ozarks where she met her husband in 1978 in agriculture class. After getting married, Mr. and Mrs. Melton moved to Illinois to work on the family’s dairy farm and continued farming on their own until 1997. In 1997, the Meltons moved to Marceline, Missouri. Mr. Melton joined Missouri Highway Patrol, and Mrs. Melton ran an in-home daycare while they raised their four boys. In approximately 2003, the Melton family returned to Edgar Springs, native home to Mr. Doug Melton. Mrs. Melton became friends with Mrs. Jan Rensch who encouraged Mrs. Melton to work for Licking Schools.

                For approximately ten combined years, Mrs. Melton has served the district as paraprofessional and Parents as Teachers support. Children in Mrs. Melton’s first preschool class will be graduating this year, and Mrs. Melton describes this feeling as bittersweet. “I remember them when they were tiny, and I’m so thankful to have been close with many of these students throughout their school years,” Mrs. Melton said. “I remember tying their shoes, and in the days following my hip surgery, I find some of those same students and ask them to return the favor!” Mrs. Melton recalled with a laugh. Although she no longer serves as Parents as Teachers support, Mrs. Melton has a transformative influence on students with special needs with whom she provides life skills instruction, homebound instruction, tutoring, and mentorship. Teachers trust Mrs. Melton to deliver supplementary instruction to students who need additional assistance, and students have a unique rapport with Mrs. Melton.

                “I believe in being honest and straight forward with students,” Mrs. Melton reflected. “Students – especially those in junior high and high school – need to know I won’t mince words, I’ll hold them to high expectations, and I’ll be right beside them if they struggle. We also celebrate their growth and successes together…even secondary students need a cheerleader in their corner.” Administrators, staff, and students know this to be factual about Mrs. Melton.

                “Mrs. Melton has a unique gift in her ability to work with students,” said Mr. Doug Dunn, junior high principal. “Students can just feel how much she cares for them. That feeling allows her to establish and maintain high expectations which contributes greatly to their learning,” Mr. Dunn concluded. On occasion, Mrs. Melton has been known to take homework to students’ homes when they forget it or leave it at school. Mrs. Melton is flexible and adapts her instruction to meet each student’s unique needs. When thinking back on her early influences, Mrs. Melton acknowledged the farming work ethic taught to her by her parents and how prioritizing chores over “fun” helped build her success in her career and raising a family. “We were outside more than we were inside in those days, and while my brother fought in the Vietnam War, my sister and I helped Dad on the farm,” Mrs. Melton remembered.

                   While Mrs. Melton is essential to Licking’s special education program, she is also loved and respected for by the staff. Mrs. Melton often prepares food for staff, Board members, athletic events, and school celebrations. Many folks in Licking look forward to the holidays and Mrs. Melton’s homemade jellies. Mrs. Melton can be seen cheering for students at ball games, enjoying musical performances, and tutoring late into the evening – even shortly after her recent hip surgery. While Mrs. Melton had to be off her feet healing from surgery, she wrote grants for classroom cooking supplies including a Missouri Retired Teachers’ grant and a Walmart grant totaling nearly $2,000.             

                    Mrs. Melton’s greatest pride is her family. Married now over 42 years, Mr. and Mrs. Melton are proud parents of John, age 40, graduate of Northwest Missouri State University who performs FEMA clean up, and father to Ashby age 8; Kent, age 38, graduate of University of Missouri in Columbia and now a carpenter; Andy, age 36, who works with FEMA on disaster clean-up and father to Sterling (7), Veda (6), and Bodhi (3); and Zach, age 25, a Licking and Missouri State University-Springfield graduate who now works in advertising for Bass Pro.

                    For her hard work, honest approach, and compassionate presence, Licking R-VIII School District is proud to celebrate Mrs. Toni Melton as Spotlight Staff Member for the month of November.