Area mom finds niche in scouting
By By J.W. Greenhill, Hartselle Enquirer
A love of photography, children and the outdoors have combined to give Melissa Parker her ideal job as a teacher's aide at Danville-Neel Elementary School.
She teaches the computer lab for second through fourth graders at the school, when she isn't out camping or hiking with Danville Boy Scout Troop 26.
She and husband Ray spent the Memorial Day weekend with the troop at Point Mallard, taking part in the Alabama Jubilee festivities.
"I teach the basics," she said. "The little ones learn what a monitor, mouse and keyboard are and from there we move up to using the internet for the fourth graders. I have to have lesson plans just like the teachers," Parker said.
Using filtering software to keep her student's safe from some of the hazards of the internet, Parker shows her charges some of the ways to make the internet a useful tool in learning.
"I will have one side of the class look up 'American Indians' and the others search for 'Native Americans,' and then compare their results. It shows them that you don't always get the same thing when you do a search," she said.
Parker's path to teaching kids about computers was guided by her love for photography and her children.
"I didn't know what I wanted to go into in college," Parker said. "A friend asked what I was interested in and I said photography. I was always taking pictures with a Polaroid camera and leaving the film in and taking another picture to get a double exposure."
That interest led Parker to degrees in commercial photography and ultimately landed her a job with Intergraph Corporation in the cartography, or map-making, department.
While working for the computer manufacturing company, gaining a familiarity with the technology was a requirement.
Parker's involvement with scouting began when her son Max started the first grade and Cub Scouting in 1994. "I've been a Den Leader for Cub Scouts and a leader in Girl Scouting," Parker said. Currently the committee chairman for Troop 26, Parker and daughter Natalie tag along on many of the Boy Scout functions with Max and Ray.
"Natalie got out of Girl Scouting recently," Parker said. "She has more fun on the scouting trips.
"We've been camping at the Sipsey River in Bankhead Forest and to Fall Creek Falls in Tennessee," Parker said.
"I keep a photographic journal of the troop," Parker said, pulling out pages of photographs of various functions the troop has taken part in.
"At Falls Creek, the raccoons got into our food and we had to go grocery shopping to have breakfast. Scouts have to by their breakfast. There were eight or 10 of the biggest 'coons you ever saw and they robbed our ice chests. You could tell it wasn't the first time they had found food in a cooler," she said.
"The best kept secret about scouting is the fun the adults have," she said.
Because of her involvement with scouting, Parker began to volunteer at Danville-Neel Elementary after leaving Intergraph in 1995. Ultimately that led to her employment as a teacher's aide at the school, where she combines her knowledge of computers with her love of children and serves as the school's unofficial photographer.
"It may not be the best paying job I've ever had, but it is a lot of fun and it is like a big family at school. I've really found my niche," Parker said.