Most of the time, when you hear about someone joining a college faculty, it’s a thoroughly happy occasion. For Melissa Tucker, though, it was mixed with tragedy.
Tucker’s mother died after battling cancer for several years. The loss of her mother brought her home. As Tucker prayed about moving, she said she “began asking God where I could go in Kentucky and teach from a biblical worldview, get into an elementary classroom, go on mission trips, and train teachers.” Boyce College was the answer to those prayers, she said.
Before she started kindergarten, Melissa Tucker knew she wanted to work in a classroom someday. She grew up in Pulaski County, Kentucky, and attended Nancy Elementary School. From first to fourth grade, Tucker learned from several teachers who influenced and encouraged her dream of teaching.
Today, with more than 15 years of teaching experience, Tucker enjoys spending time in both the college and elementary school classroom, investing in students’ minds and hearts.
“I love it when they ask a question and I don’t know the answer and we have to figure it out together. I think those make the best teaching moments,” she said in a recent interview.
Throughout high school, Tucker’s dream to teach never waned. She graduated and moved to Virginia to attend Liberty University. After three and a half years of college, Tucker moved back to Pulaski County to complete her student teaching at Nancy Elementary. While working in the Pulaski County school system, she developed a systematic writing curriculum for schools to implement in classrooms, providing a new opportunity for students to learn how to write both creatively but also with structure and guidelines, something the school system had never done before.
In addition to teaching, Tucker knew she wanted to spend time serving overseas, so she began praying about opportunities to travel and serve. While teaching at Nancy Elementary, a friend called her to ask about her interest in moving to Podolsk, Russia, because they needed a teacher to join their team. Tucker approached her superintendent about the opportunity to leave Nancy Elementary for the year, and what her job would look like when she returned. The superintendent gave her leave, committing to hold her job for when she returned to Kentucky.
Once in Podolsk, Tucker worked with a small church, starting a women’s ministry, children’s ministry, and watched as the church grew from less than five families to more than 60. In addition to working with the church, Tucker found opportunities to teach within the school system in Podolsk. During this time, village priests interviewed potential teachers for their local primary schools before they allowed Americans into classrooms. When she interviewed with the priest, he told Tucker to come teach, but also told her that the village school did not provide their own books.
Because she moved with a missions team, Tucker stored more than 30 Bibles in her apartment. She told the priest she had books to use to teach students English, and took children’s Bibles into the local school and taught 11th and 12th grade students English.
After her year in the local school, though, the priest asked Tucker not to return because her methods of teaching included Scripture and sharing the gospel with students, and at that point her team returned to the United States. Tucker returned to Pulaski County to teach for another year, but spent most of her time trying to figure out how to return to Russia. Around the end of the school year, Hinkson Christian Academy called Tucker about a teaching position in a fourth grade classroom – her favorite grade. Hinkson Christian Academy is an English-language primary and secondary school in Moscow, Russia. Tucker interviewed for the job over the phone, accepted it, and went another time to talk with her superintendent, who granted her another year in Russia while keeping her teaching position at Nancy Elementary. This allowed Tucker to move to Russia again with the security of a job when she returned a year later.
“I can see how the Lord has used every step of the way to lead me to this place,” she said.
Tucker believes her training in the classroom, on the mission field, and as a professor prepared her to join the Boyce College faculty in a pivotal time for the Teacher Education Program. Teachers need to love teaching, she said, and “The best teachers in higher education for education are teachers who really want to be back in the classroom. That’s my heart’s desire,” she said. “But I can do that here and I can do that in a larger fashion than I could before.”
Teaching at Boyce allows Tucker to combine her passion for teaching, missions, and training teachers into one job that she loves.
“It’s a job that everyday I sit back and think, ‘I can’t believe I get to be in this place at this time doing this work,’” she said. “And everyday God reminds me that as long as I lean on him, he’s going to allow me to keep doing the things that are my heart’s desire.”