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Hensel humbled by selection as MASD Teacher of the Year

By Laura Hayes

Posted 9/12/18

At her job interview to work in the Middletown Area School District, Melanie Hensel was asked if she would help coach gymnastics.

“I chuckled and said, ‘Sure,’” she …

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Hensel humbled by selection as MASD Teacher of the Year


At her job interview to work in the Middletown Area School District, Melanie Hensel was asked if she would help coach gymnastics.

“I chuckled and said, ‘Sure,’” she recalled.

Throughout her 32-year career at MASD as a science teacher, Hensel has been involved in numerous student activities and district committees.

She’s coached gymnastics, field hockey and track and field, in which she is also an official for the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association.

With a master’s degree in training and development, she serves on the district’s staff development committee, is president of the Middletown Area Education Association and was a science department chair.

“The more you can give to the school district, the better the programs will be for the students,” Hensel said. 

Now, the Middletown Area Middle School science teacher has been named the MASD Teacher of the Year for 2018.

“I was shocked because I know several other teachers were as deserving as I was for this award,” Hensel said. She said she was humbled by the recognition.

According to MASD Superintendent Lori Suski, every year Shippensburg University’s School Study Council has a teacher of the year application process. The district has participated since its inception, she said. The application is sent to all teachers, who then nominate a colleague. Suski said the nominee fills out a form which is sent to the Assistant to the Superintendent Chelton Hunter.

Hunter said they received nine applications this year. A selection committee reviews the application and votes to select the teacher, Suski said.

Suski said they rotate the teacher selection between elementary, middle and high school, and this year, the pool was open to MAMS teachers.

Hensel is originally from Williamsport, but her first teaching job was at MASD and she’s been here ever since.

“I like the close-knit community feel of Middletown,” Hensel said.

Suski said Hensel deserved the award.

“Her dedicated service to MASD is recognized in the many ways she goes over and above expectations to volunteer her time to assist with various committees and extra-curricular activities,” Suski said.

She called Hensel a leader among her colleagues who steps up when there is a need in the district, and said she is focused on her students and continues to grow professionally.

“She is a fine example of a lifelong learner,” Suski said. “Mrs. Hensel is a teacher that I can rely upon to provide honest feedback to the administration, and I appreciate that she is always solution-focused and willing to work together as a team to accomplish the goals of the district.”

Hensel joined the district in the fall of 1986. The majority of her career has been at MAMS, although she also taught at the high school for two years.

She is married with two children. In her free time, she enjoys showing dogs in agility competitions, boating and going to the beach.

One of her great-aunts taught for 50 years, but Hensel credits her high school science teacher who taught biology, anatomy and physiology with inspiring her to become a teacher.

Hensel said she enjoys working with her colleagues and likes student energy and enthusiasm — particularly at the middle school.

“They keep you feeling young. They have a thirst for knowledge,” she said.

In the past, Hensel has taught science for students from sixth grade to high school seniors. This year, she’s teaching sixth and seventh grade. 

While she loves doing outdoor field trips, her favorite lesson is her edible cell lab. The parts of the cell are made out of Jello and candy to represent each part. The students, she said, pick if they want to make a plant or animal cell. Before they can eat their cell, the students have to be able to identify each part of the cell and say what the part does.

A few nights ago, Hensel was at a conference at Penn State Harrisburg to learn about different models of co-teaching. Hensel was sitting at a table with teacher candidates.

Instead of asking her how to teach, she said the candidates asked her a number of questions about the ins and outs of teaching, such as what was a good starting salary.

Hensel said she told the students not to sweat the small stuff, get to know the custodians and join their teachers union.

Hensel advised them to go to community and school activities.

“Go see your kids if they’re in a play out of school,” Hensel said. She said she tries to attend at least one sporting event each year to let her students know that she cares.

She would advise undergraduate students seeking a teaching career to respect the profession and hold teachers in high esteem.

“So you respect yourself, all employees of the district, students, parents and the community,” Hensel said.

Hensel was recognized at the August in-service and will be recognized again at the Sept. 18 school board meeting.

She will have the chance to attend a luncheon at Shippensburg in November as part of American Education Week and be a guest lecturer at the university.