US veteran earns UAH certification to land "dream job" teaching

Melva Tignor

UAH COE student Melva Tignor successfully completed the certification process to become an elementary education teacher.

Michael Mercier | UAH

The inspiration for Melva Tignor becoming a teacher can best be summed up in a quote by international author Richard Paul Evans, "I've come to know that what we want in life is the greatest indication of who we really are."

Tignor will always be a teacher at heart. She recently completed the Teacher Education Program (TEP) at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) College of Education. The SOTA (Student Over the Traditional Age) is a U.S. Army veteran whose life, filled with many twists and turns is beginning to settle and she can envision the teaching career she has always dreamed of.

"While an Officer in the Army I helped to train many soldiers," she said. "I acted as a substitute mom, marriage counselor, and a teacher helping them to learn their trade in the military." Tignor's interest in teaching was sparked while serving in the Army. "I knew if I could help adults learn, I could build a foundation with younger children through teaching as well."

A native of Queens Village, NY, Tignor graduated from Edward R. Murrow High School as a member of the ROTC program. She previously earned a Bachelors degree in Accounting from Hofstra University (Long Island, NY), and a Masters degree in Elementary Education from The University of Phoenix (Tempe, AZ). After graduating from Hofstra, Tignor served in the Army as a commissioned second lieutenant transportation officer.

From 2006-2007 she was deployed to Iraq, while there she met her husband, Stewart. The couple married in 2008. "We began our family and it was then I decided to go back to school to become a teacher.

When Tignor's husband and their three children, Lucas age eight, Liam four years old, and daughter Payton age six made the military move to Huntsville in 2015, she contacted the State Department of Education to see if her Alaska temporary teaching certificate could be transferred to Alabama.

"I was notified the teaching certificate was not transferrable. They gave me a couple of options and one was to go to a state university and join the school's TEP," she said. After looking over teacher certification programs at selected North Alabama universities, Tignor was confident UAH had the best TEP. "Besides the quality of the program, I had to consider course availability, location, and most of all faculty and administration that understood my unique situation."

For Tignor, who had already earned undergraduate and graduate degrees and successfully completed student teaching and certification programs, returning to school was a huge undertaking. In order for her to meet Alabama state teaching requirements, Tignor had to essentially earn a second Bachelors degree from UAH to qualify for state certification." It's been a long journey. I had to retake and complete some courses, repeat my teacher observation hours again, and redo student teaching. But my classes at UAH have helped me with practical uses in the classroom…they have also provided me with multiple opportunities to experience teaching in North Alabama.

"I have made some amazing friends through the UAH TEP and those friendships helped get me through a challenging internship. My peers have also helped me to network with fellow educators and learn from a vast array of teachers. The College of Education has successfully provided me with all of the tools necessary to be successful in my teaching career," said Tignor.

She encourages high school students considering Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) as education majors to keep an open mind when it comes to making career choices. "Don't make a decision in your first year… look around to find your true passion."

Although she is busy now serving as a substitute teacher. Tignor's future plans include securing a teaching position in elementary education. "I want my children to see that it is never too late to chase your dreams."

Tignor's husband is an Active Duty Recruiter in Huntsville, and retires in four years. The Tignor's have decided to make Huntsville their permanent hometown.


Joyce Anderson-Maples