“I can fly like an eagle, high up in the sky, on the wings of the spirit, I can fly.”
Melissa Ford, well-known Department of Defense Education Activity educator, friend, sister, and daughter, passed away in the early hours of Friday, Oct. 19, surrounded by family and friends.
Melissa was an enthusiastic educator for 32 years. From Franklin County Public Schools, she joined DoDEA at Patrick Henry Elementary School, where she taught from 1990 to 2005 in multi-age, elementary, and special education classrooms. She was dedicated to education, participating as a Math Specialist in the 2004 Technical Review as well as the BAM (Balanced Assessment for Mathematics).
Melissa constantly strived to improve the teaching craft, wishing to excel in everything she set her mind to; she was on the Technology Team in Heidelberg, ASCD active member, leader, and published author as well as an appointed member of Phi Delta Kappa. She earned two master’s degrees, piloted a German student teaching program and spearheaded international professional development initiatives, while guiding and supervising student teachers.
Melissa’s knowledge and belief in school improvement led her from school improvement chair to becoming an Instructional Support Specialist for the Kaiserslautern District. She next taught at Kaiserslautern Middle School, then arrived at Ramstein Intermediate School in 2008. Melissa taught both fourth and fifth grades at RIS, positively impacting hundreds of students and faculty members’ lives. She was known for sharing resources with all teachers in the spirit of educational leadership. Melissa made a positive difference to everyone each day.
Melissa was known by her actions and words that each student in her classroom was important and she was willing to do whatever each needed to be successful. Teaching Social Studies was a personal passion. Melissa brought authentic time period artifacts to class, whether a working loom or a butter churn, so her students would have a truer sense of life in the colonial times that were being studied. Melissa encouraged and praised her students, whether their achievements were large or small. She sought items when in the United States to bring back for each child to spark their interest in the classroom. Over the years, grateful parents sent cards saying things like, “Thank you for your personal interest in my child, she loved your class, and your attention and sensitivity has profoundly affected her.” Even students not in her class knew Melissa’s kindness, “Ms. Ford wasn’t my teacher but she always said ‘Hi’ to me whenever she saw me.”
Proud to come from a military family, Melissa was active in Tres Dias and Elim ministry in Poland as well as her local church, Faith Baptist Church. She was also an avid traveler with trips taking her around all of Europe as well as seeing the pyramids of Egypt. Melissa was able to walk into any situation and almost instantaneously have those around her engaged in conversation. As a master quilter, she created quilts with her class where each square represented a student. Melissa loved music, whether singing, listening, or playing her guitar. She was known to go to her students’ music class earlier than her scheduled time to be an ‘audience member’ to her students, even singing along when she knew the song.
All who knew Melissa thought of her as a smiling woman with a twinkle in her eyes. She refused to complain or give up on anything, teaching others about perseverance through her actions. She wanted her life defined by her devotion to her students, family, friends, and spiritual beliefs. It has been said Melissa “had an urgency about life” as she challenged obstacles and truly enjoyed all opportunities for growth. Her kind, gentle, inspiring ways are part of her wonderful legacy and Melissa will be deeply missed by all who knew her.