Younger and younger children are being convicted of crimes, forcing us to ask: at what age can we expect a youngster to understand moral choices and consequences? Experts agree that there is not a specific age at which children develop a conscience and judgment. Children learn these important distinctions at different ages because they are taught there are consequences to their behavior for which they will be held responsible.
Retired from the military, Melvin Holliday now teaches students in elementary through high school who are removed from their regular classes for mandatory or discretionary disciplinary reasons and placed in CCISD’s Disciplinary Alternative Education Program. The goal is to re-educate students in a safe, nurturing environment with consistent expectations.
DAEP Principal J. T. Irick said Holliday’s approach may seem traditional, but it works.
“Mr. Holliday not only teaches social studies in our DAEP, but he also has taken the lead with our mentor program for our DAEP students. He has taken the format previously in place and has perfected to reach the maximum amount of students,” Irick said. “We have seen a decrease in the number of students who return to DAEP and we attribute it to Mr. Holliday, who is now the foundation of the mentor program.”
Students also have an opportunity to see Holliday’s compassionate side. He greets every student every morning before he enters the classroom and tells them goodbye before each leaves in the afternoon. Holliday’s students say he is fair and just with his expectations in his classroom.
“Because Mr. Holliday has high expectations, his students rise to meet those. When given a project, students work diligently to ensure they are giving their best efforts to make Mr. Holliday proud,” Irick said. “His teaching style is a more traditional approach with a lecture. But while going through the lecture, Mr. Holliday asks questions of the students requiring higher level thinking and application.”
Holliday regularly assesses students informally and formally. He adjusts instruction the students’ understanding levels and slowly works to push the students to meet higher and higher expectations.
“He does a great job of building character with our students and they notice it. When they leave on their final day in DAEP, Mr. Holliday will repeat back to them some of the lessons and strategies taught while they were here,” Irick said. “He always says one last thing, ‘We believe in you, so do not come back to see us unless it is to visit.’ Many of our students respond with, ‘Yes, sir. I am not coming back.’”
Holliday has taught at CCISD for five years and was named the school’s 2019 Teacher of the Year.