“It teaches them to connect to books,” said Melhorn, 57. “I don’t want to put education in a box and spoon-feed them and teach to the test. I want to teach them to become independent thinkers and problem solvers on their own.”
The effectiveness of the teacher’s philosophy is not lost on Principal Ray Gonzales.
He said Melhorn concentrates on teaching the material in multiple ways—be it with telling visuals, interactive lessons or exciting lectures—to ensure he reaches every one of his many pupils.
“Different students learn in different ways and (Melhorn) gets actively involved in their learning,” Gonzales said. “When you look at his ability to work with young people and reach them, it’s second to none.”
The Camarillo Chamber of Commerce took note of Melhorn’s accomplishments in the classroom and named him Camarillo’s 2012 Educator of the Year.
Melhorn will accept his award with nine other honorees at the Chamber’s annual Top Ten banquet at Spanish Hills Country Club tonight.
“It’s a great honor,” Melhorn said. “Now I have to live up to that (title) and it motivates me to get better.”
A family of teachers
Melhorn graduated from St. Bonaventure High School in Ventura. He attended California Lutheran University for two years but graduated from Pacific Christian College with a bachelor’s degree in theology.
Following his graduation, he served as a pastor for five years until he moved back to Ventura and married his wife, Susan, in 1983. For the next 18 years, Melhorn loaded trucks for the Coca-Cola bottling company.
It wasn’t until he started coaching girls’ volleyball at RMHS in 1999 that he began working toward his teaching credential. A full-time position at the high school opened up a year later and Melhorn jumped at the opportunity to step into the classroom.
Teaching, it turns out, is in Melhorn’s blood. His father was an instructor at the Naval Academy Prep School and his mother a reading specialist for El Rio School District.
In addition, his sister taught high school math and his brother and brother’s wife both teach middle school in Thailand.
Susan is a teacher at Monte Vista Middle School in Camarillo.
Heartbeat of the school
When he’s not inspiring students in the classroom, Melhorn works as the high school’s teacher advisor for Associated Student Body government, a job he began in August. Under his guidance, the students founded multiple new programs at the school this year.
To recognize academic achievement, the student leaders created “brag tags” for the school. Students with a GPA of 3.0 or higher earn a tag that allows them special privileges such as getting to attend school events early or leaving class early on certain days.
ASB also donated food and toys to nine families at Christmas.
Melhorn said he enjoys the position because it’s an opportunity to interact with students outside the classroom.
“It just gives me a better touch on the heartbeat and the pulse of the school and it’s a different chance to impact people,” he said.
Melhorn’s “charismatic” attitude has always been a boost to student involvement and ASB is no exception, Gonzales said.
“He brings great energy and an incredible amount of enthusiasm,” the principal said. “It rubs off on the kids and the environment. He helps with great creative ideas and helps build student leaders.”
Melhorn and Susan have 25- year- old twin daughters, Margan and Whitney.