Download PDF

Melissa Wantz

  • Ventura, Calif.


Work History



Cabrillo Middle School, Ventura, Calif.

Courses: 7th grade Language Arts; 6th Grade Core (math, science, history, English)

Teaching in one's own community -- four blocks from home! -- is one of the most rewarding jobs imaginable, and I am excited to be returning to the middle grades as a Cabrillo Mariner. My priorities are to teach students how to master academic content, think critically and solve complex problems, work collaboratively, communicate effectively, learn "how to learn" and develop academic mindsets. We all work best in a joyful, responsible community, so creating this together will be our goal, as well.


Journalism Instructor

Harvard-Westlake School, Studio City, Calif.

Courses: Advanced Journalism, Advanced Journalism - Editors, Intermediate Journalism

Leadership: Department Chair, represented Upper School Communications Department on Faculty Academic Committee

Harvard-Westlake Chronicle : As adviser to the Harvard-Westlake Chronicle, I taught and counseled approximately 90 journalism students in 10th-12th grades. Improved staff communication and workflow efficiency by introducing new digital tools to the students, including Slack, Camayak, Piktochart, Soundcloud, etc. Oversaw the redesign of the publication website and phone app to improve user experience, enhance mobile access and increase the ability to showcase multimedia elements. Managed the department budget. Led students to three national awards: the CSPA Gold Crown (Hybrid) and both the NSPA Print Pacemaker and Online Pacemaker, one of just three high schools in the United States to earn all three top national awards in 2016.


Edtech Coordinator, English Literature and Journalism Instructor

Foothill Technology High School, Ventura, Calif.

Courses: Digital Journalism, 9th grade Honors English, 10th Honors English, 10th College Prep English

Leadership: Technology Coordinator (2012-2015), English Department Chair (2011-2012) . 

Foothill Mobile Tech Academy:  As Foothill's technology coordinator, I initiated a school-wide program in Fall 2012 for interested teachers to apply for grants to receive iPads, funds for apps, and professional development in a cohort setting in order to experiment with and share emerging best practices for mobile device instruction. I researched and purchased equipment, developed and supervised the grant process, selected participants, and provided professional development for staff. The Academy will be an ongoing program. In 2013, we added Chromebooks to six classrooms.

The Foothill Dragon Press I started this journalism program at Foothill as a lunch club in 2008 and then created a UC-approved journalism course in 2009, featuring an online-only newspaper.  In 2011-2015, the publication was honored by the National Scholastic Press Association with an Online Pacemaker, one of  the highest awards presented to high school journalism. The Dragon Press won a Gold Crown Award, the highest honor from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association in 2012-15. I was named one of six Special Recognition Advisers by the national Journalism Education Association in 2012.

Project Hello: Notes from the Edge of the World. Inspired by a book that Foothill students read in 10th grade world literature, A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah, I organized an international web-based writing project with students from Foothill and students in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Students corresponded on a Ning from November 2009 to May 2010, learning about their lives, hopes, fears and plans for the future. The project, paid for by a grant I received from the National Education Association (NEA), resulted in the publication of a book of children's stories and a website. "Salone Stories: Ten Traditional Stories for Children," subsequently was reprinted and is being used as curriculum in 16 primary schools in Sierra Leone and has been republished as an e-book by Worldreader.

School for Lungi Village. Co-led a team of students to raise $56,000 in 2010-2011 to build a new school for the community of Lungi Village, 30 minutes outside Bo City, in Sierra Leone, West Africa. The goal was surpassed by April and the school was built in May 2011. I returned to Lungi Village in July to participate in the opening ceremony.

The Phoenix Art & Literature Contest of Ventura County, 2008-2010. I created this contest for high school students living or attending school in Ventura County. My journalism students organized the contest, and community writers, artists and photographers judged it. The contest annually attracted hundreds of entries in art, photography and writing and resulted in the publication of books of art and literature.


    English Instructor

    Balboa Middle School

    Courses: 6th through 8th grade Language Arts (Gifted classes, college-prep, intervention), 8th grade U.S. History.

    • Initiated and led a Committee to Explore Small School Communities: I researched, organized and led a six-month process of exploring whether our school could reorganize into small communities/academies 
    • Integrated 8th Grade English and U.S. History: Working with another teacher, I initiated the integration of English and history and helped develop a daily 90-minute block class.

    Leadership: Head of Small Schools Exploratory Committee, Chair of English Department 2004-2006.


    Public Relations Executive Writer

    Whisenhunt Communications

    Created public relations strategies and content for a range of clients to improve community awareness; specialized in education clients.


    Journalist & Columnist

    Ventura County Star

    Education, city, lifestyle reporter. Weekly columnist for news section. 



    Year abroad

    Universite de Poitiers
    • Attended French university for senior year of college. Courses taught in French.

    My Teaching Beliefs

    I believe that students have the natural desire and ability to learn when the conditions are right. Part of my job is to create those conditions in the classroom. Whatever it takes to make lessons relevant and inspiring, that's what I try to do. Technology enhances students's ability and desire to research broadly and deeply and to communicate their ideas for various authentic audiences. 

    Guided inquiry, student-centered exploration, design-thinking, collaboration and projects that stretch learners just beyond current capabilities -- these are the best ways to learn (and teach). My priorities are to teach students how to master academic content, think critically, solve complex problems, work collaboratively, communicate effectively, learn "how to learn" and develop academic mindsets. We all work best in a joyful, responsible community, so creating this together will be our goal, as well.

    Grants Received

    • IMPACT II Teaching Grant: $500 grant for innovative curriculum I created for 9th grade literature students. My  "Saving Winston!"   project integrates literature, technology and 21st century job market skills. May 2012
    • ING Unsung Heroes Award: One of 100 teachers in the U.S. picked to receive a $2,000 grant in 2011. Purchased iPad2s to start journalism mentorship "We the Students" for at-risk middle school students on Foothill campus. July 2011



    • Columbia Scholastic Press Association, NYC: Presented at Spring, Fall Conferences (2011-2016)
    • "Free to Tweet Celebration" Invited by the First Amendment Center to present a guidebook I wrote about how teachers can incorporate social media into their lessons. The Newseum, Washington D.C. (December 2011).
    • Columbia Scholastic Press Association, New York City: Taught at the Summer Journalism Workshop 2011-2015. Created week-long curriculum for Digital Journalism Bootcamp, trained teachers and student editors how to start and manage an online news program at their high schools.


    • Edmund J. Sullivan Award from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association  (March 2015): The Edmund J. Sullivan Award recognizes student editors who pursue innovative ways to present the truth on behalf of their audiences.
    • Gold Key from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association (March 2015): In recognition of outstanding devotion to the cause of the school press, encouragement to the student editors in their several endeavors, service above and beyond the call of delegated duty, leadership in the field of education, and support of the high ideals from which the Association has drawn its strength and inspiration.
    • Chris Prewitt Memorial "Eternal Optimist Award" from the Ventura Unified School District (August 2014)
    • Dow Jones Newspaper Special Recognition Adviser (2012).
    • National Scholastic Press Association Online Pacemaker (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)
    • Columbia Scholastic Press Association Gold Crown (2012, 2013, 2015, 2016) 
    • ING Unsung Hero Award (2011) 

    In the News