Alumni News

William Melega (M.Ed. ’05) recognized with national teaching award

Photo of William Melega

William Melega

William Melega was recently selected as the national recipient of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) National Citizenship Education Teacher’s Award. On March 6-10 he will travel to Washington D.C., where he will be formally presented with the award during the VFW National Legislative Conference. Melega is currently a high school social studies teacher at Chapel Hill High School and has been teaching for 15 years.

The VFW selects three teachers each year as recipients of the award, with one teacher being selected as the best in each category: elementary, middle and high school. Teachers are nominated by their peers and enter into local and statewide competition, with the best from each state going on to compete for the national award.

According to the VFW of the United States Web site, the National Citizenship Education Teacher’s Award recognizes the country’s top elementary, middle and high school teachers who teach citizenship education topics and promote America’s history and traditions. Almost 1,000 teachers from across the nation are nominated for the award each year.  

Melega was selected for the local award in November 2009 after being nominated by a member of his department, Steve Blackwell, who is also an alumnus of the School of Education. In December 2009, Melega won the regional award, then the state award in January 2010. He was selected as recipient of the national award in February 2010. Lee Heavlin, Local Post Commander at VFW, was responsible for ensuring that Melega’s application was forwarded throughout the selection process.

In the classroom, Melega teaches his students about how and why historical events have occurred over time and how they are connected to the present day. “The students enjoy his classes because he brings America to life with his knowledge, his passion, and his ability to make them understand our history and how it has affected not only us, but the world,” said Steven Blackwell in his nomination letter.  

Through class demonstrations, visits to historical sites, live telecasts with military veterans and going into full character and costume, Melega is dedicated to bringing history to life.  In 2008 he traveled to Pearl Harbor where he organized the first ever live video conference with Chapel Hill High School. More than 500 students participated in this opportunity to “meet” and talk with two Pearl Harbor survivors.

“Mr. Melega makes history come alive by telling it like it’s a story,” said one of his current students, Alexis Huber. “We can picture it in our heads which helps us relate to the stories.”

Another of Melega’s students, Chelsea Cullen, said about her teacher, “When Mr. Melega talks about historical events he involves the class by using specific people as characters. He makes all of us feel like we were actually there.”

Melega was awarded $1,000 for his personal professional development, $1,000 for Chapel Hill High School and plaques for both the school and himself. He hopes to use his monetary award to fund a trip to Vietnam where he will complete a documentary film series on the Major American Conflicts in the 20th century.

As for the future, Melega states, “I hope to look for other avenues and opportunities to take my knowledge and skills to a wider audience so I can continue making history come alive for even more people.”