One Word at a Time-Crafting the Perfect Letter of Recommendation

Bridget Johnson from the Bullseye at Maize South High in Wichita, Kan., was a winner in Headliners in Education’s February/March 2021 contest for Best Anything Else Story


Bridget Johnson/Maize South

Adam Melichar, a counselor at Maize South High School, writes a letter of recommendation for a senior. In the years he has been teaching and counseling, he has written hundreds of unique letters for his students.

(Bridget Johnson from Maize South High in Wichita, Kan., was a winner in Headliners in Education’s February/March 2021 contest for Best Anything Else Story. Read the original story in the Bullseye HERE.)

There are few high school counselors that put the same amount of effort into helping students through high school as well as into their college journey.  Adam Melichar, one of the three counselors at Maize South High, is one of these.

Melichar has been in education for around fifteen years, ten of which at Maize South High.  He began his career in education because he enjoys being around and working with students, all while building strong relationships with them. 

“I got into education because I wanted to be in education; I wanted to be around students,” said Melicher.  “And to be honest with you it’s something that, you know, I look forward to coming to work, like I look forward to working with students that I have developed a relationship with.”

The relationships that Melichar builds with his students is extremely important to both him and the students.

“I think the most important thing you can do is create relationships that are meaningful, because creating meaningful relationships creates, I think, a better safety net for students,” said Melichar.

Adam Melichar and fellow counselor Coree Mueller chat before school in the counseling office. On any average day, you can find Melichar talking to his colleagues and students before the bell rings. (Photo by Bridget Johnson)

Coree Mueller, another counselor at Maize South High, believes Melichar has impacted students outside of the classroom as well by being a trusted adult in their lives.

“There’s a lot of students who have said that he’s the adult that they know they can come to, whether it’s for advice or something happened, or whatever the case may be,” said Mueller.  “I think that if you talk with a lot of students, they would say that he was a very positive influence and a very positive advocate.”

Hundreds to thousands of students and memories later, Melichar still remembers the first letter of recommendation he was asked to write as a teacher.

“I still remember the first letter I was asked to write was when I was a teacher and I was googling like what should a letter or recommendation say, like what should I put in there?” said Melichar.

As a counselor, the number of letters he writes has increased significantly but the process he uses the classic pen to paper rather than spending more time using technology.

“I don’t personally like to be on technology all day and I think there’s something I really enjoy about hearing a pen against a piece of paper or a pencil against a piece of paper,” said Melichar.  “I like the kinesthetic aspect, I like actually writing.”

Students seem unaware of the effort that goes into these letters. Between the handwritten draft, typed version, and the time spent perfecting it, and getting as much information as possible onto one page.

“We all write letters of recommendation but Mr. Melichar actually hand writes letters first and then he goes in and types them up,” said Mueller. “I don’t think that students realize quite the effort that goes into it.”

Melichar knows his students well and has plenty of good things to say in the letters that there have even been instances that he finds himself doing all he can to make sure that every word fits into the page.

“I try to keep all letters to a page. There are times when the font goes from eleven to ten, I try not to go below ten as far as font size,” said Melichar. “There are some students who I know really well and I’ve worked with really well and I have a great appreciation for them that I’ll even expand my margins but I try to keep it all on one page.”

Melichar believes his students have just as much of an effect on him as he does on them. They inspire him to become a better person and counselor for himself and his future students.

“When I see a student who works with a middle school kid and tutors, doesn’t get paid for it and doesn’t make a big deal of it, goes to the library after school and just works with that kiddo, that inspires me,” said Melicher.  “So I think just in general people being good people is inspiring and it makes me want to be a better person.”