In her 19th year as an educator, Melissa Gude currently serves as the Chief Academic Officer in the Little Rock School District, her second year in this role. Her educational journey includes diverse experiences, each contributing to her passion for developing strong instructional leadership grounded in student-centered learning.Before becoming CAO and making Arkansas home, Melissa dedicated seven years to leadership development, four cultivating leaders within the School District of Philadelphia, and three coaching leaders across four Southeastern states through a national nonprofit.Melissa's education journey began in Chicago, at a large K-8 school on the Southwest side. She taught for seven years and was a school leader for four. This school community felt like 'home', where student cultures and languages were celebrated and the magic of reading was embraced. Students taught her how reading could transport them to different worlds, introduce them to friends and mentors, and enrich their lives. This fueled Melissa’s commitment to ensure all students have the opportunity to be readers and acquire the essential skills to do so.Melissa calls North Little Rock home. She lives with a partner and their two adored cats. Here, amidst the natural beauty of Arkansas, she finds joy in exploring her "still new" state, relaxing and grilling on her patio, getting lost in a good book, and, when time allows, indulging in the guilty pleasure of binge-watching Netflix and Hulu.