She’s silently grading one of the many stacks of student assignments, shaving away at the conglomerate, piece by piece.
Her life—bouncing from being an English major, to working in a bank vault, to practicing law on a whim, and finally returning to teaching—embodies the saying “life changes”—summarized in a song by Thomas Rhett:
“Ain’t it funny how life changes? You wake up ain’t nothing the same … you make your plans and you hear God laughing. Life changes, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Most know her as Melanie Hopper (Mrs. Hopper to students), the teacher and mother, but she experienced a series of twists and turns, doubts and whims—encapsulated by jobs that weren’t her forever.
Hopper has been teaching for over a decade now—she thinks it is 13 years but admits that she stopped counting—but her journey did not follow a traditional, cookie-cutter format.
After graduating college with a degree in English, she landed a nepotism job as the Quality Control Officer in an underground vault for a BancorpSouth in Tupelo because she wasn’t ready to teach or go to law school, which she viewed as her only two options.
However, a “Legally Blonde” moment and old-fashioned boredom led her to the first door in her search to find her career calling.
“I was bored working underground in a vault everyday—I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life,” Hopper says.
Her Legally Blonde moment would be going to law school. And, she would add, that the movie is surprisingly accurate in terms of the cases she studied in her first year of law school. Hopper loved the study of law—she was excellent at the necessary skill of exploring all options and possibilities of any scenario—but her interest did not extend to the practice of law.
Ironically enough, the exit into teaching opened up to Hopper in the way of a move to Grenada, where she still lives and teaches.
Making the decision to become a teacher would prove to be one of the best decisions of her life. With teaching, Hopper found not only a job but a passion and a career that she cherishes.
“I’ve loved every minute of it,” she exclaims.
But the journey wasn’t over when she entered the teaching profession, far from it. She changed jobs two more times, leaving her post as a freshman and sophomore English teacher at Grenada High School for a one-year stint at Oxford High School before returning to fill the AP Literature and Language post for juniors and seniors at Grenada.
Equal parts teacher and student, Hopper went back to school for a third degree—a master’s degree in teaching—and become a specialist.
While her journey is far from reaching its final destination, she appears to be putting the car in park for a while, though she has considered taking the step to become an administrator.
“There are days where I think I would be really good at it [being an administrator], with my law background, but I would miss my student interaction,” Hopper says. “And I’m intrigued by the idea of possibly teaching my oldest son Daniel.”
Student interaction is big for Hopper. She loves an interactive classroom and when her students feel comfortable to express themselves, as long as they are respectful to other students and her. To this, I can attest from personal experience.
Nonetheless, the idea intrigues her—maybe for reasons you would not expect.
In a field where 77 percent of teachers are female, Grenada High School’s principals are 80 percent male. A couple Google searches show that district wide, from elementary school through the high school, only 26.6 percent of principals are women (just four of 15). From sixth grade on, nearly 78 percent (7 of 9) principals are male—a time, one would argue, where students’ perceptions of leadership become firmly entrenched.
“And that’s a shame because students need to see strong female leadership, especially in a field that is nearly 80 percent female, and where they could also benefit from the daily interactions with the strong male teachers that you just don’t find as often,” Hopper contends.
But for now, Hopper isn’t taking that step—she has followed the journey made by the changes in her life, and she is ever-so thankful for that journey. She wants to cherish the moment.