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Unlocking Literacy: Inside IPS Summer School with Teacher Melinda Millholland

In a bustling classroom at Merle Sidener Academy 59, Melinda Millholland is on a mission to ignite a passion for literacy in her young students. 

A 23-year educator for Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS), Millholland spends several hours each morning with a half dozen eager learners at Sidener. Focused primarily on literacy, Millholland’s English language arts class caters to rising fourth-grade students, providing tailored instruction to meet their individual needs. 

While another teacher handles math for these students, Millholland dives deep into the world of English language arts, nurturing essential reading skills that form the foundation of academic success.

“The biggest challenge we have is forging connections with the students and providing them with the support they may not have received during the regular school year,” she said. “I believe that when students feel cared for and understood, the learning process becomes natural and enjoyable.”

At the heart of Millholland’s teaching philosophy lies the belief that reading is the cornerstone of life. By equipping her students with essential literacy skills—such as vocabulary, fluency, comprehension, and phonics—she empowers them to navigate the world with confidence and competence.

Milholland’s classroom is just one piece of the larger puzzle of the district’s summer programming. Across all district-managed high schools and several elementary schools, students engage in a blend of traditional classes and enrichment opportunities designed to meet their individual needs. During summer school, students embark on a journey of learning, with a focus on academic improvement and personal growth.

Jessica Dunn, Executive Director of Enrichment Programs for IPS, underscores the evolving purpose of summer school. Traditionally seen as a chance for grade improvement, summer school now serves as a vital lifeline for students in need of additional educational support. 

IPS is committed to ensuring that every student can succeed through the district’s literacy programs, she said. 

Millholland staunchly believes that learning and reading shouldn’t end when the students leave the classroom, emphasizing the importance of parental involvement. 

She encourages parents to foster a culture of communication at home, prioritize reading activities, and maintain open dialogue with their child’s future educators.

“When they go home, I would urge parents to keep their youngsters reading as much as possible,” she said. “Parents should develop a culture of reading within the home. Let your children see you are reading when you are using any application on an iPhone, tablet, and laptop. Be that model they can emulate, and they will. That is extremely important.”

“I would also urge parents to keep in touch with the teacher or teachers for next school year, explaining what your youngster has and has not accomplished over the summer. That way, they can better anticipate your child’s needs.”

Despite concerns about the decline of reading in today’s digital age, Millholland sees opportunities for modeling literacy behaviors through technology and believes that with the right guidance, every child can become a proficient reader.

“Reading is not a lost art despite all the technology we use. It is never lost. What we are doing on Facebook and other applications, we are reading.”

With degrees from IUPUI and Ball State University, Millholland brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her summer school classroom. As she continues to inspire young minds and nurture a love for reading, Milhollans’s impact extends far beyond the walls of her classroom, shaping the future of her students one word at a time.