Melissa began her career in science education in Texas, where she taught various biology courses and coached soccer at a large, comprehensive high school. After seven years, she moved to Seattle, Wash., to teach at an alternative public high school that served students who, for many different reasons, were not well-supported by traditional high schools. Soon afterwards, she was asked by her school district to step out of the classroom and work as an instructional leader and peer coach for science teachers in grades K-–12. This experience inspired her to begin doctoral studies focused on supporting science teachers and creating collaborations between science teachers. While in graduate school, she continued to teach science through Rainier Scholars, a Seattle-based middle school program for students of color who desire to be among the first in their families to attend college.
In 2011, she joined the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison as an assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. Melissa is the lead professor in the Secondary Science Teacher Education program. She teaches the “Methods” courses and oversees student teaching experiences for new science teachers. Additionally, Melissa teaches graduate-level courses focused on science education, teacher learning, professional development, and qualitative research methods in educational research. Her research focuses on understanding more about how teachers learn across the span of their careers, from preparation into professional practice. She also studies how teachers learn from working together. Her current research focuses on how middle and high school science teachers make use of information gathered from students as part of their day-to-day instructional decision-making. This study aims to provide the teachers’ perspective on the current trend of “data-driven” educational practice in schools.
Melissa holds a B.S. in microbiology, with minors in Spanish and education, and an M.S. in education in the sciences, math, research, and technology from University of Tennessee, Knoxville, as well as a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction, with a focus on science education and teacher education, from the University of Washington. She has been published in American Educational Research Journal, Science Education and Teachers College Record. In 2012, Melissa received the Outstanding Doctoral Research Award given by the National Association for Research in Science Teaching.