Melissa Wolf 2

Melissa Wolf of Roscoe has been teaching theater arts at her alma mater, Rockford's Guilford High School for 13 years, in the very room that "sparked [her] curiosity and fervor for the Arts." The Rockford native took off for New York after high school to be a working actor, but returned to Illinois after 9-11 and student debts started to take a toll. She thought she'd take a job, earn some cash, then head to Chicago for performance opportunities. Then ... she met a guy. Melissa came back to Rockford, took a retail job, and, on a whim, joined a co-worker who was completing a master's degree at the local university. After high school, college had held no interest, but now, Melissa was ready. She earned her teaching certificate to help others like her. "A safe space to be inspired, be present, and be yourself and have the time of your life is what I am doing my best to provide students. I think I might have been destined to do this." Even if her students do not pursue acting or teaching drama post-high school, they learn that the confidence, communication and speaking skills learned in Melissa's theater classes apply to "real life." These skills are essential not just in auditions, but also in job interviews and presentations. However, over the past 13 years, 75 of her students have been accepted to 33 university theatre programs, all with scholarships. Jonathan Sleger, retired technical theatre director for RPS205, said that since Melissa was named department chair nine years ago, the department has tripled "in both the number of classes being filled and the number of students filling them. This is a testament to not only how respected and loved she is by her students, but also how much the administration recognizes her quality work." School counselor Donna Pauley commends Melissa, saying, "Her casts and classes cut across racial, ethnic, gender and ability groups. On her stage and in her class, rival student groups manage to co-exist. Students with learning issues and physical disabilities are able to participate and flourish. In shows, she casts kids who have never participated in extracurricular activities and, in some cases, who rarely attended school, making it mandatory that they show up to school on a regular basis in order to be eligible for her production. In addition to teaching and directing performances, Melissa supervises student teachers, revises district curriculum and has advised a senior class, as well as the Drama, Glee and Pokemon clubs. Oh, and she married that guy.