Florence J. Clark Award for Excellence in Middle School Teaching
About the Award: This award recognizes two outstanding middle school teachers in the Lincoln Public Schools. Middle school teachers honored by the award demonstrate excellence in middle school teaching and work toward continuous improvement in student achievement and development.
Amount Awarded: $5,000
Nominated By: Sarah Kroenke, a fellow colleague at Irving Middle School.
Please describe why you believe the nominee is an outstanding middle school teacher. Meagan is an outstanding middle school teacher because she understands school is for learning, but learning cannot begin until student's physiological, safety, love and belongingness, and esteem needs are met first.
She should receive a reward just for her efforts toward keeping students fed. Meagan has organized a monthly food pantry in our school cafeteria on Mondays after school. She communicates with the food bank, organizes the student and adult volunteers to prep, run, and clean it up too. The student helpers feel proud to be helping other students.
Each year our school has a food drive to honor a past educator who has passed. Meagan and another colleague lead the student council students in organizing this drive. Beyond sharing all the information and the physical collecting of the donations, Meagan excels at soliciting input from the students about what they feel would motivate students. Over the years, she has worked with our school administration team to get a variety of wacky ideas approved. This year, she convinced two staff members with musical talent that kids love to make a music video about topics students chose. Our school met the food collection goal, and the kids LOVED the video. Meagan and her team set additional goals for her team and this resulted in her dying her hair in five different colors when they met it.
Meagan is also the coordinator at our school for the Backpack Walk which is a district-wide fundraising project to fund backpacks filled with food for children to take home on the weekends when they may not have a stable food supply when they don't have school breakfast and lunch provided. This project requires a lot of communication and motivating adults to donate funds and participate in the actual walk day. Through all of these food related projects, Meagan shows her understanding of the importance of students having nutritious meals in order to be ready to learn. The amount of time she spends on these projects each year is immense.
Once physiological needs are met, students need to feel safe, love and belonging, and Meagan intentionally works to make sure this is true not only for her current students, but also for her past students and students school-wide. One of her colleagues said, “Students are motivated to learn from teachers they respect and like. Students are always happy to be in her classroom even when the math is challenging. She has consistency and kindness with everyone. I seriously don’t know how she manages it all and with such a positive attitude!” Another teacher commented, “Meagan has a heart of gold. She cares for her students both present and past. She continues to foster relationships with students long after they are out of her class. Meagan cares deeply, and it shows in her willingness to help out around the school” One of the ways she helps out is by willingly and cheerfully hosting students in her room in “Team Focus” which when students from a different grade need some cool down time to collect themselves and understand the purpose of school. These are students who are struggling in every class academically, behaviorally, and emotionally and Team Focus is like a reset. They earn classes back each day they are successful on their goal sheet. Meagan often volunteers for this and helps students tremendously with her pep talks and kindness. Also, she is the “go to” for a lot of kids who are in 7th and 8th grade. When they are emotionally frustrated, you can find them going to her room to safety.
Next, esteem needs need to be met, and these are critically important in middle school. As students go through adolescence, they are moving away from looking for parent and adult acceptance and craving their peers’ attention. This can be challenging as kids change friend groups, learn that being popular doesn’t necessarily make a person happy, and moods and emotions change often and without warning. Meagan takes it all in stride with lots of humor, direct discussions with students about what is happening in their development, and then a few direct instructions mixed in. Also, she spends a lot of time getting to know each student and what they need. Because she has taught math, language arts, and special education, she uses all her knowledge to wrap around the needs of students. When back and make a new plan of action to reach them. Another educator said, “Meagan is an out of the box thinker. She comes up with fun ways to teach kids new ideas! She has a special education background, and this helps with differentiating her lessons for all learners.” Meagan does an excellent job of establishing positive relationships with her students, while holding them to high standards and expectations. Finally, another staff member noted, “Meagan reaches out to support staff and special educators to help students. Meagan embodies the meaning of “All means All.”
What innovative techniques does the nominee use to encourage and stimulate interest and learning from their students? Meagan is a learner! That means she is always reading and wanting to know more about what she can do to reach her students. The best thing she does is always try something new when what’s currently being used isn’t working. Her colleague wrote, “She uses a variety of activities and methods like different fun technology tools and games. She finds what is best for the kids!” Also, a fellow teacher said, “Meagan pulls in new current pop culture and trends from music, media, movies and books to engage students in learning and help them to apply knowledge in their everyday lives.”
In addition to her regular teaching load, Meagan teaches math intervention as an extra standard. Sometimes this can be the type of class students dread because it might not be fun to go to class for the subject that is hardest, but that seems to not be true when Meagan teaches it. Kids are hustling down the hall to get to her room every day for 7th period math intervention. Another 6th grade math teacher commented, “I have a few students who really struggled with math earlier in the school year. They were placed in her math Intervention class and have shown tremendous improvement and progress throughout the school year.”
Meagan uses restorative circle practices, Adaptive Schools techniques, Kagan strategies and more. The beauty is the way she takes different approaches and makes them her own to make them work in her classroom, and she changes them to meet the needs of each individual, current student.
Describe how the nominee has contributed to the growth and development of another staff member at their school. There are lots of memes and inspirational quotes about the importance of having great co-workers and Meagan embodies so many of them. Meagan’s room is located in the center of the floor and on the way out the door. It is the hub of the “garden level” of our school. Six of us eat lunch in her room every day. During her plan period and after school, one can always find staff congregating there to talk to each other and work with her. Here are some of the quotes her co-workers provided when asked how Meagan contributes to our staff’s growth and development.
“Meagan is the go-to person for MANY staff members. After school you can always find staff in her classroom sharing ideas, discussing next steps, and planning for the future. Meagan is trusted by staff because she is real, and honest. She has been a “safe place” for (students, teachers and support staff)many people at Irving. Not only is Meagan professional and willing to discuss school things, she is also empathetic and willing to have conversations and listen when staff have personal issues.”
“Anyone who is on her team feels as though they can trust her and are welcomed. Her door is always open to anyone with questions or concerns. Her knowledge of students and the relationships she has with them allows her to connect on many levels with other teachers as well as the students. She leads by example for sure and it has helped us all become more developed as teachers.”
“Meagan is often the teacher that mentors the new incoming staff. She makes suggestions, helps with problem solving, and finds strategies helpful to the rest of the team and staff.”
“She is an amazing colleague who is always willing to share her ideas, classroom activities, and instructional strategies with other teachers. Her positive sense of humor and willingness to listen helps make the day to day challenges of teaching more enjoyable.”
Additionally, Meagan is a great team player and communicator. She always does what is good for the team. She motivates her teammates to be successful and innovative. Meagan is always willing to lend an ear, advice or help when it’s needed. Often time staff go to her with questions on district policies because if she doesn’t know the answer, she WILL find it! A staff member wrote, “Meagan is on top of her communication game! She is thorough in her emails, and always remembers to communicate with her team and families! Meagan does not let the ball drop. She is often thinking ahead, and communicating ideas and thoughts for weeks in advance.” Another colleague said, “I’m always impressed with her ability to stay on top of communication with families and staff. As soon as I think of something that needs to be done, she has already sent out an email about the issue.”
Overall, the biggest thing Meagan does is lead by example. She is a great mom, daughter, wife, teacher, friend, and person. She makes all of us want to be better and do better. I hope you will consider her for this awesome award.