by Mimi Ross
Jill Melones treats her College Success Strategies course not as a gateway to school but a springboard for life.
“A good teacher,” the former governor of Oklahoma Brad Henry once noted, “can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning.” Jill Melones, a faculty member in the Social Sciences and Human Services Division, is such a galvanizing instructor. As soon as you arrive in her ORI-103 class, you likely find the classroom to be a little loud and a little chaotic. But that energy is well orchestrated by a teacher who aims to motivate students and prepare them for their college experience.
The College Success Strategies is a course that helps students prepare academically, emotionally, and financially for the expectations of college. That’s a lot of work. But Melones sets out to reduce college’s stress — and energize its somewhat boring content. Melones’s exuberant laughter and comedic persona wake you up during a course that could put you to sleep. Melones uses her wit to help students understand why the orientation course adds value to their RACC experiences — and why education is so important to success in life.
This enthusiasm is the product of studying and teaching for over fifteen years in a variety of educational environments. Today, Melones is in the counseling field, and her experience provides valuable tools for teaching the ORI class.
What do you teach?
College Success Strategies is my focus, and I am also the core coordinator of the program.
Why do you teach here at RACC?
My primary goal is to give back to the students what I received from RACC as a student. RACC helped me with what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go [through] great support from the staff and faculty.
What is your education background?
[I have a] master’s in counseling, [a] bachelor’s in business, and [a] bachelor’s in psychology.
Have you always taught at RACC?
I got my start at RACC but have taught at Bloomsburg University and Newman University.
What other jobs have you had?
I have worked here at RACC in several different positions. I used to work with international students and was an academic advisor. Also, I taught in community education. And prior to that, I had many jobs, but mostly in the business arena.
What were your best and worst jobs that you have had?
I don’t necessary put my jobs in the best and worst categories. I think you learn from every job you have to take [something] forward with you and introduce it to other aspects of your life, or in to your next adventure, whatever that may be.
Do you have a family? Spouse? Children?
I have a daughter who is going to be twenty-eight this year; a granddaughter, nine months; and a husband, who has two sons in college.
What are your hobbies and interests?
Snowboarding is my big hobby push. I also have been a professional photographer for many years. Now I only do [photography] on the side for friends, but I used to do quite a few weddings a year.
Did you always dream of being a teacher?
Ironically, it has always been in the back of my mind ever since fourth grade, but I did not know that was the course I was going to take. I explored more in business, accounting, [and] things of that sort until I came back around to teaching later in life.
Do you consider yourself a successful teacher?
I would like to think I am. My goal is to […] inspire my students to want to achieve their goals. It is really for my students to say whether I am successful or not.
What influence do you want to have on your students?
The ability to inspire them and leave with positive thoughts and feelings. That they can move towards their goals and have them be successful. Also that they need to ask for help along the way to accomplish that.
What course at RACC do you like the most?
Actually, I taught many types of courses, and I really enjoyed them all. I kind of absorb myself into whatever class I am teaching so I can do the best for them. [I try to] pass on accurate and helpful information [to] create that positive impact that lets [students] go on to achieve their goals.
Do you have any role models?
I have many role models. A lot of them are here and all of them are role models for different reasons, but it has more to deal with me just wanting [. . .] to be the best person I can be and by looking at them and holding them up [and learning] how they accomplish their goals and dreams. [I remind] myself I want to do that and that kind of pushes me. So I don’t know if I have just one. There are multiple instructors here; there are multiple staff member here. But there are also individuals outside of RACC, just in the world in general, that have so much compassion [. . .] that I want to be like.
What is one piece of advice that you would give?
Never give up! No matter your age, no matter your situation. Never give up! And keep striving for your goals!
On a lighter note: who is your favorite writer and why?
I don’t know if I have one. I’m such an eclectic individual to begin with, and I just take pieces from so many different scenarios, people, writers, producers, and even spokespeople… I just don’t have one, but for fun reading I definitely enjoy fantasy and science fiction. For more intellectual reading, I’m going to go with more inspirational stories, things about psychology, counseling. And I enjoy [the writing on] cognitive behavior therapy and mindful meditation.
If you weren’t a teacher what career would you be in?
I would be a professional snowboarder. Or I might take up photography again [. . .] but in a different format than I did in the past.
If you could go any place in the world, where would you go and why?
I would go back to London. I had the opportunity to go there with my daughter in 2005, and I just really enjoyed the experience of life in a place that had a deeper history than the United States. We have so much history here, but [there] it goes so much further back.
I like anything interesting or different. As much as I want to go back there [to London], I would love to tour the world and experience all different cultures and how it affects me and how I can bring it back in to the classroom or with clients.