Her colleagues at James Clemens High School have chosen Meleighsa McLaughlin as “2023 Teacher of the Year.” CONTRIBUTED

Meleighsa McLaughlin named ‘Teacher of the Year’ at James Clemens

MADISON – In her classroom, Meleighsa McLaughlin uses “guidelines, but with grace, maintains a growth mindset and celebrates the little things.” Her colleagues selected her for “2023 Teacher of the Year” at James Clemens High School.

McLaughlin serves as English Content Lead, Quill and Scroll Sponsor, yearbook adviser and MCS Education Association Representative.

Her career in education started in 2005 with Decatur City Schools at Brookhaven Middle School, “a Title I school with over 90 percent of students receiving free or reduced lunch,” she said. McLaughlin taught inclusion and advanced seventh-grade language arts. She was grade-level chairperson.

McLaughlin was honored as “Brookhaven New Teacher of the Year 2006” and “Brookhaven (Veteran) Teacher of the Year 2013.” She was selected again as top veteran teacher in 2015 but declined in favor of another coworker.

In 2015, she accepted an English position at James Clemens. Typically, she teaches English 10, Pre-Advanced Placement English 10 and is yearbook adviser. One year, McLaughlin taught English 9, ACT and PSAT Prep and Myths & Legends.

Previously, McLaughlin sponsored Friends of Rachel, Student 2 Student and Poetry Out Loud.

In McLaughlin’s classes, she nurtures an atmosphere of kindness, respect and accountability. “Structure provides a reliable routine and clear expectations,” she said.

Her goal is “preparing students to be productive and well-rounded citizens . . . not just stellar English students.”

McLaughlin felt fulfillment when three students, who will lead the yearbook staff next year, developed leadership skills and confidence. “Two were freshman this year. These students are like coaches and team captains.”

After attending Calhoun Community College, McLaughlin received a bachelor’s degree in English language arts for secondary education at Athens State University, followed by a master’s degree in English from the University of West Alabama at Livingston.

Born in Decatur, she grew up in a military-connected family and left Alabama before she was one year old.

Her husband, Darrell McLaughlin, is Branch Manager of Bearing Distributors Incorporated or BDI in Decatur. In 2020, Darrell earned Branch Manager of the Year, along with Branch of the Year.

“I was painfully shy as a child and wouldn’t even go with my cousins for ice cream unless my mom was going,” Meleighsa said. “I didn’t learn how to swim until I was an adult.”

“I’m a nature thrill-seeker. I have snorkeled with manta rays in Hawaii, ziplined at Grand Canyon West and jumped out of a plane, skydiving at Jean Airport in Las Vegas,” she said.

Her interests include hiking, organic gardening, along with attending live sports and entertainment events. “My friends call me a ‘foodie.’ I like seeking out delicious restaurants, preparing tasty meals and baking yummy treats,” she said.

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