Steven A. Melnick, Ph.D.
As a young child, I had no idea we weren’t wealthy. My father labored in a steel mill for 31 years to put a roof over our heads, food on the table, and clothes on our backs but none of it was fancy. My dad worked hard and took care of his family. My mother was a life-long homemaker and devoted to my dad, my brother, and me. We had the necessities of life with no frills but, more importantly, we were a close family who spent time together talking, reading, playing, camping, fishing, and learning. My brother and I were the center of my mother’s universe and we always knew, no matter what we did, Mom and Dad always loved us and were there to help. Early on, my parents taught me the value of an education and instilled in me the drive and determination to fulfill my dreams. I try to live my life as a testament to the impact of good parenting through love, support, and encouragement.
My school years were filled with fond memories. I was a (slightly) above average student with decent grades, great friends, and I played sports (baseball and basketball–My mother was convinced I would bleed to death if I played football!). In the third grade, I tried out for and made the local Little League team (go Cardinals!), and followed that passion for baseball for 13 seasons through teener league, high school, and Legion. My parents attended every single baseball game I ever played except one…and that one they had a family member record on 8mm movie film so they wouldn’t miss the highlights! I began my basketball career in the sixth grade and played through high school. In both sports, I loved the competition, the teamwork, and the camaraderie. Importantly, it instilled in me the realization that accomplishing a goal (e.g., hitting a curve ball) was largely up to me and was determined by how hard I worked.
I went on to receive my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Elementary Education and taught fourth grade in a public elementary school for ten years. It was a school in which the teachers were dedicated, energetic, and genuinely loved children. They were all wonderful, supportive colleagues and the time I spent at Cressona Elementary were some of the most rewarding years of my career. The school was in a blue-collar community where parents recognized the value of a good education and were very supportive. The kids arrived each day with an energy and excitement that was contagious.
I did further graduate work at Bucknell University and went on to receive my Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut. In both my career and studies, I have been connected to children and families all my life.
Today, I am Professor Emeritus of Education at Penn State University. As Director of Teacher Education, I had overall responsibility for undergraduate teacher preparation programs in early childhood (PreK-4), middle level education (grades 4-8), secondary education in addition to our graduate program in Teaching and Curriculum. I taught graduate courses in research design, quantitative methods, and a seminar focusing on important, timely, and controversial issues in education.
I have published more than 160 articles, chapters, research reports and scholarly papers on a wide variety of issues in education and consult regularly with public school systems, governmental agencies, professional associations, and private businesses.
Early in my first year of teaching, I remember walking into the faculty room complaining about something one of my students did. One of the older teachers put an arm around my shoulder and said, “Son, never forget that if you knew the lives of some of these kids outside of school, you’d want to wrap them up and take them home with you.” From that time forward, I made it a point to understand the lives of the children and their families. It is an important lens through which to see how to help them.