It’s Teacher Appreciation Week and here at NWEA we’re celebrating all that educators do, and have done, to inspire students – both in the classroom and out. Recently I spoke with Meghan Quigley, a 4th grade math teacher at Achievement Prep Academy in Washington, DC and asked her about her teacher journey.
JA: When did you first discover that you wanted to be a teacher?
Meghan: I first discovered that I wanted to be a teacher my freshman year of high school during an English I class. I had an incredibly unique, smart and creative teacher that made our class interesting and fun. She was young and relatable and she made teaching seem “cool.” In the mind of a 14-year-old, “cool,” meant a whole lot. She inspired me to study literature and writing in college and become a teacher.
JA: Can you describe the moment when you entered your own classroom for the first time?
Meghan: When I entered the classroom for the very first time, I was teaching a summer school English class to 6th graders. I created the classroom in the back half of a media center by putting posters on the walls, listing expectations and a calendar of assignments. The students sat at round tables that I carefully placed paper, pencils and markers in baskets upon each one. I was excited and ready to inspire children through literature just like my teachers had done for me.
JA: What are the hardest times for you? And what are the most hopeful?
Meghan: The hardest times for me as a teacher is when a student disrupts the learning of the other students and all that you had planned for that lesson. It tests your patience and classroom management skills. You have to remind yourself that the child is acting out most likely because of a deficit in that particular subject or an incident that happened at home. You work though every teacher tool you have to defuse the situation and encourage the child to get back on track but sometimes it just doesn’t happen and you have to create a new approach to reaching that student. The most hopeful times are when a child makes a connection to something you have previously taught them, it is a very simple moment but enough to make you think “you were listening to what I was saying!” and that inspires you again to keep coming back each day.
JA: How has being a teacher shaped you?
Meghan: Being a teacher has made me a lot more patient, accepting, tolerant, strong, tired, loving, hard-working, resilient, frustrated, and honest with myself.
JA: Have you ever thought of leaving the profession?
Meghan: Even in the toughest moments in the classroom I have not thought about leaving the profession. I have thought about other options in the profession but never leaving teaching. I also would never leave before the end of a school year because our students do not have a lot of consistent adults in their life but they do know they will see my face pushing them to do better every single day whether they like it or not and even if they are frustrated with me at the moment, I know they are comforted by the fact that I am always going to be there when they walk in each day.
JA: Is there anything more you’d like to share about your journey to becoming a teacher?
Meghan: Over the past four years working at my school, there has been a lot of turn over from both the teachers and administration. This is the hardest job in the world but if you do not stick around, you will never get better. If things are bad, you need to do everything in your power to change it. Do not give up on these students because they need the consistency in their lives. The best part of my job is not the day to day but it is seeing a successful 5th grade child across the hall that I taught the year before. It is a 7th grader giving you a hug in the hallway and telling you they miss having you as a teacher. It is seeing a boy who gave you hell last year earn honor roll on his report card. Those are the best moments and if you don’t stick around, you’ll never get the chance to see them.