Local student clams his way to higher education

By Daniel Dunkle | May 14, 2018
Photo by: Daniel Dunkle Zachary Melvin

Waldoboro — Zachary "Zak" Melvin, 23, of Waldoboro, has always been good at math.

That fact may explain why at so young an age he is called "Mr. Melvin" by the students he teaches at Medomak Valley High School, and why he was able to graduate in the top 10 students in his class from that very same high school in 2013.

But most impressively, it may explain why he will earn his degree and teaching certification in May while remaining debt-free.

Melvin grew up here, and he is not one of these local kids who dream of getting away to bigger cities or new landscapes. He loves his home and the area. His favorite activities include hunting, fishing, four-wheeling and snowmobiling.

"If I want to have a good time, I go out back," he said.

Like many local kids, he needed a job when he was in high school to buy a car and to earn spending money. He went into the family business of clamming. His father, Glen Melvin, is a clammer, and his grandfather was a clammer. It just made sense and it provided the income he needed. In addition, he said, he likes working outdoors and getting exercise.

His sister, Shania, went off to the University of Maine at Orono, and Zak saw how much a university education can cost, not only in terms of tuition, but for room and board. While that campus experience was what she wanted, he did not want to move away from the Midcoast and live on a large campus. That prompted him to seek alternatives.

Having looked at career options, he had decided his love of math could best be put to use in a career as a high school teacher. That would leave him free to continue clamming during the summers.

That led him to University College at Rockland (known locally as URock) on Camden Street, where he could earn his degree while living at home. Better yet, he could continue clamming and pay as he went, avoiding debt.

"I'm getting the same piece of paper and saving a lot of money while doing it," he said.

Melvin said he has enjoyed the experience of taking classes in Rockland, where the professors and staff know all the students.

"They say, 'Hi, Zak, how you doing? How was clamming yesterday?'" he said.

He said he would not want to be one of hundreds in a college class.

He is now doing his student teaching at his hometown high school. He works with three longtime teachers: William Hinkley, Neil Payson and Randall Hooper. "That's three different approaches, all successful," he said.

The student now finds himself teaching geometry, algebra and pre-algebra, creating lesson plans and grading papers. He is also often mistaken for one of the students and asked by staff members if he has a sporting event later because he is dressed up for work.

The students tested him at first, as they do any new or student teacher, and he acknowledged classroom management was a challenge. He said the important part was to take part of what they were saying and learn from it, and try to improve his teaching style, but not to take any criticism personally. "Having a positive outlook helped me," he said. "It's the only way a teacher can get by."

He takes a lot of inspiration from the teachers he works with, whom he said have been very encouraging and have liked his energy. He also is inspired by Linda Pease, now serving as interim principal, whom he had as an English teacher. He said she always found a way to make class interesting for him and the other students.

His advice to others who are graduating from high school is to consider logically what their goals are for the future, as he did, and realize there are more options than simply signing up for college loans and moving away from home to a large campus. He stopped and considered where he wanted to live and what jobs are available there. His hope is to work as a teacher full-time somewhere in the Midcoast. Some people he knows get degrees for jobs that don't exist here and then move back to this area.

"There's no one right or wrong way to do it."

There are options for those looking for an education, just waiting to be explored.

Zachary Melvin (Photo by: Daniel Dunkle)
Comments (4)
Posted by: Judith C Feyler | May 14, 2018 18:46

Kudos to him but he is from Waldoboro and went to Medomak Valley.


Posted by: Judith C Feyler | May 14, 2018 18:45

Kudos to him but he is from Waldoboro and went to Medomak Valley.


Posted by: Mary A McKeever | May 14, 2018 16:17

I love the attitude of this bright young Rocklander. The area is lucky to have him and I hope he gets a good teaching contract after all his efforts.

Posted by: BETSY A FEYLER | May 14, 2018 11:37

Good Job and well done.

If you wish to comment, please login.