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College of Education

Heart of a Teacher

Before she was a school principal working with the U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity, Melissa Klopfer (B.Ed., ’80) was a senior struggling to find the funds to help her finish her final year of study.

As a student teacher at Meadowfield Elementary School, Klopfer incurred more expenses than the usual tuition, housing, books and supplies. On top of everyday costs like room and board, she encountered a series of additional expenses: insurance, car upkeep and extra gas to drive to Meadowfield from campus and home, a professional wardrobe, teaching supplies, fees for exams leading to teacher certification and a larger grocery list to counterbalance the fact that she couldn’t use the university’s meal plan. With no time outside her busy schedule to find a part-time job, Klopfer just hoped to make it to graduation.

Now, with the establishment of the Melissa L. Klopfer Endowed Scholarship this year, she hopes no student teacher will ever experience the same struggles she did. The scholarship, solely for student teachers, helps offset the added expenses that preservice teachers encounter through their field experience, such as transportation, clothing, supplies and meals away from campus. This mindset will enable them to be more successful, Klopfer says, so they can apply what they have learned with confidence.

In turn, the now-teachers will use what they have learned to make South Carolina, and the world, a better place. “My heart is in helping those kids in their last semester,” she says. Through the stress of finances, final classes and student teaching, Klopfer received encouragement from her mentor at Meadowfield, Patricia Barrett. The 1st- and 2nd-grade teacher provided real-world experience and practical advice, Klopfer says. Because of their relationship, she graduated feeling very prepared to take on the world of education.

And take on the world, she did — specifically, in schools on U.S. military bases in Turkey, China, Japan, Portugal and Italy. She spent 28 years in the Department of Defense teaching the children of military families. Working all over the world, climbing the ranks of classroom teacher to school principal and earning her master’s and doctoral degrees in education satisfied both her lust for traveling and her desire to impact her pupils — from preschoolers to graduate students. “I was very fortunate to do a job I love while serving my country,” she says.

Klopfer and her husband are now settled in Chapin, South Carolina, but her yearning to give back has never been stronger. Reflecting on her early years in education at USC, she determined that without her experience at the university, she may not be in the place she is now. By establishing this scholarship, Klopfer will help future generations of teachers succeed.

“USC gave me confidence to lead a classroom and then a school,” she says. “I don't know if I would have been so successful in my career if I hadn’t had that support. ... I hope other education graduates will join in to benefit the next generation of classroom and school leaders.”

The Office of Gift Planning at the University of South Carolina can provide information on estate- planning strategies to benefit the university or its affiliated foundations. For information, contact us at 803-777-1601 or, or visit

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