From up above, Melanie Sutter had to be smiling.
Kaci Dickinson certainly was smiling after being named the recipient of the first Live Like Mel Educator Grant in the Montpelier Schools auditeria on Friday.
A second grade teacher at Montpelier Schools, Dickinson was one of three semifinalists announced May 17 as in the running for the finalist grant. Each of the three — including Tammy Lee and Caleb Wyse — earned $100 semifinalist grants and an ice cream party for their classrooms last week.
Then, during an assembly in the auditeria for about 100 teachers and staff on Friday, the last day of the 2018-19 school year, Dickinson was chosen as the finalist, earning an additional $200 grant.
The award was made by Cory Calvin, co-founder of the Live Like Mel non-profit foundation, which was created earlier this year to continue the legacy of Melanie Sutter, a popular teacher for 29 years for Montpelier Schools, who passed away in February from glioblastoma brain cancer.
Calvin, a 1997 Montpelier graduate, said the three awards are privately funded to support and recognize current and future educators.
“Because Melanie was a Montpelier educator who passed away during the current school year, the foundation felt it was important to recognize her colleagues at Montpelier Schools in the inaugural giving year,” said Calvin, who was joined on stage for the award ceremony Friday by Melanie’s widower, Mike Sutter, now of Fremont.
Calvin said the foundation’s moniker is a nod to the principles his mother lived by: Give, live and love.
“None of us would be here today if it weren’t for the influencers, coaches, mentors, role models — people like all of you in this room. You continue to shape the minds of our children and their children and their children’s children. You are truly making a difference,” Calvin said during the award ceremony. Calvin, his sister Abby Calvin, Sutter and a fourth member, an Indianapolis pastor, form the Live Like Mel award committee.
Calvin also noted that while all Montpelier teachers were encouraged to apply for the grants, it was by chance, or by what he called, “divine intervention,” that Dickinson, Wyse and Lee were chosen. All three are second grade teachers, which is the grade Sutter taught for almost her entire Montpelier career.
“It’s neat to be honored like this. I taught with Mel for several years and I learned so much from her,” said Dickinson, who has taught at Montpelier for 11 years.
After winning the award, Dickinson said she, Lee and Wyse agreed to band together, discuss ideas and share the $200, to be used for educational materials for the whole second grade.
“All three of us are winners,” Dickinson said.
After the ceremony, Sutter was emotional as he thought of his wife. “She loved her job, she loved her kids.
“It’s important we did this for the teachers,” Sutter said, adding, “(Melanie’s) looking down on us, for sure.”