CCHAT Spotlight: Melissa McNamara
Since joining the CCHAT staff in 2019, Melissa McNamara (MSDE, CED, LSLS Cert. AVEd.) has spent time as the teacher of CCHAT’s Preschool, Primary and Baby & Me classes. In every classroom she enters, Melissa brings her energetic teaching style and a wealth of knowledge and experience in the field of deaf education.
Amazingly, teaching actually was not a thought in Melissa’s mind growing up in Florida and only through a few twists and turns did she end up in a profession that became a natural fit.
Growing Up in Florida
Melissa was born and raised in Jacksonville, and as a child, she and her family spent many days at the beach. Like most kids her age, she had dreams of a future profession.
“I actually didn't want to be a teacher when I was younger,” Melissa says. “My original plan was to be on Broadway, (but) then I went to college to be a speech-language pathologist (SLP).”
Staying true to her roots, Melissa enrolled at the University of Florida. With becoming an SLP as her goal, Melissa graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders.
Finding a Career Path
Upon graduation, Melissa veered away from becoming a clinical SLP and instead began researching other career options that were more in line with her interests.
“After I decided I didn't want to be an SLP, I started researching programs in deaf education, which is how I found Washington University in St. Louis,” Melissa remembers. “A friend of mine from undergrad was already a student in their program. She described deaf education as the best combination of all my interests, and she was right!”
With her passion for teaching ignited, Melissa graduated with a Master of Science in Deaf Education, and she started teaching at The Moog Center in St. Louis. There she gained teaching experience and furthered her knowledge in deaf education.
But for Melissa, another career shift was on the horizon.
Love Will Lead the Way
While teaching at Moog, Melissa met Tommy McNamara, and the two began dating. Tommy lived in Virginia, so Melissa was again faced with a tough decision.
“Although I loved Moog, I loved Tommy more, and I moved to Virginia,” Melissa says. “There, I worked in a public school as a teacher in a self-contained classroom for children who have autism.”
Melissa found many parallels between teaching children with autism and children with hearing loss. The experience in Virginia broadened Melissa’s educational scope, but Tommy’s job with the Navy meant that another move was in the cards.
Luckily for CCHAT, this move brought the McNamaras to California.
“Right after we got married, we got (moving) orders to Sacramento,” Melissa says. “I found out that CCHAT was nearby and that a girl from my grad program worked there. I reached out to the director, hoping that she'd be hiring. Luckily, she was!”
Melissa went in for an interview and within a month, she was working in CCHAT’s preschool class.
Settling in at CCHAT
Now in her 8th year of teaching and 4th year at CCHAT, Melissa has found a style that fits her personality and works best for each student she cares for.
“Being a teacher is awesome, because I very rarely have to be serious,” Melissa says. “I am a loud and silly person, and I love to laugh. Thankfully, kids are the same way!”
This year, Melissa is teaching in CCHAT’s Baby & Me and Primary classes, an assignment that has her covering a wide range of CCHAT children. Melissa is guiding families of newborns who are just beginning their hearing loss journey, while also instructing CCHAT’s oldest students who are preparing for life in the mainstream.
No matter the class, Melissa’s joy for teaching is clear to see, and she relishes the opportunity to gain more knowledge to better serve her students. Recently, Melissa earned LSLS certification, recognizing her status as a Listening and Spoken Language Specialist.
“Having my LSLS encourages me to stay current in my own learning so that I can help students learn in the best ways possible,” she says. “Knowing that I get to play some small part in their learning journey is actually the coolest part of my job.”
With Melissa and Tommy now feeling settled in Sacramento, the two love trying new restaurants and breweries in the area. Taking their two dogs for walks and hikes is another hobby for the couple, and Melissa loves to unwind from teaching with some relaxing reading, painting and drawing.
While her Broadway career didn’t materialize, Melissa has found a true passion in the classroom. For her, the job has taught her life lessons in compassion, teamwork, flexibility and respect.
“The most important thing I've learned as a teacher is something I try to live by every day: just meet people where they are,” Melissa says. “In deaf education, parents and staff members are teammates. We all have the same goal, and that is success for the child. We can all learn from each other and should work together in every way possible.”
Learn more about CCHAT’s unparalleled staff of teachers and speech therapists by visiting our ABOUT page.