Dr. Melissa Collins: "As a product of this school system, I know what it means to have hardworking teachers push students to do their very best day in and day out." (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises)

Cars started lining up about 4:30 p.m. at John P. Freeman Optional School, 5250 Tulane Rd. With Shelby County Schools in virtual-learning mode, the ensuing procession had nothing to do with end of a school day.

The draw was a drive-thru “Parade for a Champion” — John P. Freeman Optional School teacher Dr. Melissa Collins, who has been selected as an inductee into the National Teachers Hall of Fame (NTHF).

“This award is symbolic of the collective support and motivation that comes from students, families, John P. Freeman Optional School colleagues, and Shelby County Schools,” said Dr. Collins.

“As a product of this school system, I know what it means to have hardworking teachers push students to do their very best day in and day out. As an educator, I am grateful to represent the dedication that many teachers in our district have for teaching all students. I accept this honor on behalf of all of the countless SCS educators who dream about inevitable change to encourage and inspire all students. This honor is for US.”


Gallery: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises


Dr. Collins is one of five teachers chosen for the NTHF class of 2020. The inductees learned of their selection during a surprise announcement on a YouTube Live broadcast on Monday, September 14. The live event was part of the College Football Playoff (CFP) Foundation’s Extra Yard for Teachers Program BIG DAY – a national effort where college football came together to support and celebrate teachers. Dr. Collins and each of the inductees also received a $1,000 Donors Choose gift card to use towards classroom supplies and resources from the CFP Foundation.

Collins is only the fifth teacher from Tennessee to be inducted into the NTHF. She is one of five teachers chosen for the NTHF class of 2020.

The inductees learned of their selection during a surprise announcement on a YouTube Live broadcast on Monday, September 14. The live event was part of the College Football Playoff (CFP) Foundation’s Extra Yard for Teachers Program BIG DAY – a national effort where college football came together to support and celebrate teachers.

Each of the inductees received a $1,000 Donors Choose gift card to use towards classroom supplies and resources from the CFP Foundation.

A 21-year veteran of J.P. Freeman, Collins is a highly decorated teacher, who has received national and local recognition for her dedication to students including:

  • The Horace Mann Award,
  • The Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching,
  • The National University System-Sanford Teacher Award for Tennessee,
  • Henry Ford Innovative Teacher Award,
  • West Tennessee Teacher of the Year,
  • A 2018 Top 50 Global Teacher Prize Finalist and
  • A 2018-19 LifeChanger Award nomination.