COMMUNITY GEMS: Deputy connects with Jefferson Twp students

Former school resource officer at Blairwood Elementary provided “a safe haven” for kids.



Blairwood Elementary has nearly 200 students, but Deputy Melanie Spencer knows each of them by name.

Spencer was the school resource officer at the Jefferson Twp. Local School District building until October when the program was halted in a cost-cutting effort. She made a big impact in the short time she was there. Her presence provided a “positive example of law enforcement” while she also connected with the students, other teachers said.

“Obviously we’re there for the security of the building,” Spencer said. “We’re also there to be a safe haven for the kids in the community.”

Spencer, 40, was in the early childhood education field working in a kindergarten classroom before joining the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department 18 years ago, with the last three years as a deputy. So working with kids again was like coming full circle for Spencer.

She interacted with students in all grades at Blairwood, which serves students from preschool through grade six, building connections with them. Some students were nervous around her at first because of her profession, but they soon learned that she was there to help, not punish.

When they learned to trust her, they wanted her attention. Some even sought her to do activities with them during recess.

“They know that you are there for them,” she said.

Lizzy Gleason, who is the physical education teacher at Blairwood, nominated Spencer as a Dayton Daily News Community Gem to let her know how much she meant to the community.

“She’s just a really amazing role model for our kids,” said Gleason, of Jefferson Township.

Spencer worked at the school for less than a year, leaving in October when the school resource officer program at Blairwood ended. Even so, the kids get very excited when Spencer returns for a visit.

“She’s just always looking out for our kids, even when she’s not here physically anymore,” Gleason said.

For many of the students Spencer is like a mentor or mother-figure, Gleason said. In addition to a sense of safety, Spencer provided opportunities to the students, such as assisting with the school’s field day, helping to organize a touch-a-truck event with first responders and connecting them to resources for their specific needs.

Spencer was always thinking of others, even recognizing teachers during teacher-appreciation day.

“She always made sure everyone was noticed and appreciated,” Gleason said.

Christina Rogers-Richardson, the school’s secretary, said Spencer “will always be part of the Blairwood family” due to the impact she had on many students and staff.

“She helped students learn to respect authority, but also allowed them to be openly honest with her without judgement,” Rogers-Richardson said. “She built a great rapport with them.”

Spencer, of Huber Heights, said she found the school resource officer position rewarding, along with the knowledge that she was making a positive difference in the students’ lives. She was the first law enforcement officer closely around many of the kids. While that was a challenge at first, afterward some told her that now they too want to be an officer.

Spencer enjoyed the family-oriented school and its down-to-earth environment.

“You can’t help but love it,” she said.



Nominate a Community Gem

The Dayton area has numerous compassionate communities, full of people who help each other in big and small ways.

The Dayton Daily News Community Gems initiative, beginning today, will again highlight and honor people who give their time and effort to improve the lives of their neighbors and community. The series will appear online at and each Sunday in print.

To nominate someone in your community, use this QR Code.

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