College:College of Community Innovation and Education
Degree Program:Education PhD, Reading Education Track
Research Focus:Teacher perception of literary instruction to support students struggling with reading acquisition.
UCF alumna Melissa Mitchell has been in the field of education for over 20 years and has worked as an adjunct instructor for the university since 2015. She first graduated from UCF in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, and then again in 2015 with a master’s in Reading Education. Her extensive experience provided her with a profound appreciation for the importance of reading and how essential it can be to one’s foundation of knowledge, leading her to pursue a PhD in Reading Education. She began the doctoral program at UCF in 2016 as a Graduate Teaching Assistant before returning to teaching full-time in 2018. From that point on, she continued working diligently towards completing her PhD whenever possible.
In her line of work, Mitchell has often felt like she was fighting a losing battle. Even before the pandemic, she describes how the shortage of teachers created a crisis in education, leaving children to pay the price. However, she feels honored to have worked in the K-12 school system for the entirety of the pandemic and “see heroes, disguised as teachers, walk into [her] elementary school each day.” Mitchell’s dedication to her students made it difficult for her to leave the classroom during this period. “I felt I had to be there for my students,” she says. Now, Mitchell serves as an Instructional Coach at Inverness Primary School in Citrus County, where she devotes her experience and skills to better the field of education. In her current role, she advocates for students by supporting teachers. She emphasizes the importance of providing teachers with a voice since their perceptions are often overlooked, an issue that she strives to correct through her work and her studies.
As for her accomplishments, Mitchell feels that she has been “very fortunate.” In 2017, she won second place in the Education category in the UCF Graduate Research Forum and then co-authored research that won first place in the College of Education Graduate Research Showcase in 2018. Most recently, Mitchell was recognized during UCF’s Student Research Week and won the 2021 Student Scholar Symposium in Education for her compelling exploration of teacher perception of literary instruction to support students struggling with reading acquisition. She views her recognition in these events as a show of support for the value of education, teachers, and students.
Being an Education major, Mitchell’s program allowed her to make many meaningful connections with literacy scholars across the country, in addition to providing her with opportunities to work with people across many different disciplines at UCF. She credits her mentor, chair, and advisor Vicky Zygouris-Coe PhD, for helping her through the process of completing her degree. She first met Dr. Zygouris-Coe as her professor in the master’s program and recognizes her encouragement as one of the motivating forces that propelled her towards graduation. Mitchell describes how she “stayed with [her] and believed in [her] throughout this entire process, even when [she] didn’t believe in [her]self.” She stresses the importance of having a strong support system to help guide her through everything.
Her advice to others is that they stay the course, even when things get challenging. She originally planned to complete her PhD in 2019 but was forced to postpone her plans. “Life got in the way, but I found my way back,” she says. Due to her admirable perseverance, Mitchell graduated in August of 2021, officially becoming a proud triple Knight. She credits her three children and supportive husband, who is also a teacher, for inspiring her to finish her work. “They have been along for this crazy journey and everything I do is for them,” she says. She plans to spend more time with her family and continue supporting her school in Citrus County.
- 2021 Student Scholar Symposium Scholarship Recipient
- Co-authored winning research for College of Education Graduate Research Showcase in 2018
- Second place in UCF Graduate Research Forum in Education 2017
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