A Feature on State High’s Newest Social Studies Teacher


Melissa Gartner

A selfie of Mrs. Gartner smiling in the main hall of State High.

Olivia Shen, Staff Writer

After 6 years of teaching in the State College Area School District and 11 years total, Melissa Gartner has finally started at State High. Although she has only been teaching her classes for two months, the social studies teacher is already making a positive impact on all her students.

Aaron Le is a freshman taking Gartner’s AP Human Geography class. He has been enjoying the class and likes having Gartner as a teacher.

“I feel like she makes everything very happy, and definitely tries to make our classroom environment brighter,” Le commented. Along with many other students, Le’s AP Human Geography experiences have been bettered thanks to their teacher.

For Gartner, teaching is more than just handing out grades to her students. It’s about making connections with her students and helping them grow— and this year, growing along with them as well. “This is my first year teaching at this high school, and it’s very different from what I was teaching last year. I like the fact that I have three classes of 9th graders because I’m at the same point they are. We’re still learning life at the high school, so I’m learning with my students,” Gartner said.

The conditions of how Gartner came to teach at State High are rather unique. After several different “permanent” subs for Jessica James, AP Human Geography teacher and newly the Social Studies coordinator this year, Gartner came and started around early September after the going through a lengthy hiring process.

Many of the students left without a permanent teacher at the beginning of the year were grateful to finally have a permanent teacher to guide them through the year. Sarah Luan, another freshman taking Gartner’s AP Human geography class, shared her thoughts about the beginning of the year.

“It was really confusing in the beginning of the year because we had a new teacher every class, and the one supposed semi-permanent sub that we had didn’t really teach the subject well. I don’t think he knew anything about human geography,” Luan said.

“I think all 5 classes were just ready to have a permanent teacher … I’m grateful that I was selected because I’m loving my job. I can understand the stress that students and parents were feeling, but I think by now we have our feet under us and we’re moving forward. I think we’re looking at calm seas,” said Gartner when asked about her view on the situation.

Something that Gartner strongly believes in when teaching is running the class based on the input of her students. Her two mottos when teaching are “Let’s think about it!” and “Let’s give it a try.” This type of teaching has been seen to resonate with students best — whether they’re learning science, business, or human geography. Gartner’s teaching style is just one of the many things her students appreciate about her.

“[My two mottos] are my response if there is a totally new idea that I hadn’t anticipated in a lesson, and I like students to see that I’m willing to think it over (…) it can lead to chaos, it can lead to excitement, it can lead to regrouping and approaching it a different way the next class period” Gartner explained.

Gartner has a beautiful mindset when it comes to helping her students grow. “Students need to understand that content can come and go, but if you love learning and are open to learning, you’re gonna be successful for the rest of your life. And it’s making that connection with students, that if I can share this excitement about grabbing onto new information, and trying out new ideas, and communicate the journey that it’ll take you on if you let yourself be open— that to me is key,” Gartner stated. “I hope my students are still excited about learning after spending a year with me. My goals are to always find new activities or more activities, or a way to turn passive learning into active learning, and really just help my students,” she continued.

After a wonderful start to the school year, Gartner hopes that the trend will continue. She looks forward to teaching her classes and growing with her students as the year progresses.