Archive for Thursday, February 7, 2008

Nottingham teacher of year humbled by award

February 7, 2008

At the end of January, each school in the Eudora School District named its teacher of the year. This is part two in a series of profiles on each of the four teachers.

Nottingham Elementary School Teacher of the Year Mandy Meyer sits down in what can only be described as the lobby in Nottingham Elementary School.

The kindergarten teacher wishes a passing student happy birthday in the same effortless manner in which she teaches. But both acts only look effortless.

Meyer comes in to work at 6:30 a.m. and leaves around 5 p.m., except on the two days each week when she has class, as she's pursuing a master's degree in school leadership from Baker University. She also comes in at least one day during the weekend.

"I'm not a perfectionist," Meyer said. "I just want to have several different things to fall back on. Like, if a kid is struggling with one thing, I want something else to have just in case. Half the time I'm just up here working on stuff I may not even use."

Meyer was surprised to have received the Eudora Chamber of Commerce teacher of the month award for November. But she was even more surprised when she was presented with the award during an assembly that, unbeknownst to her, was organized just to present her the award.

"This time, I was very shocked because I thought the whole thing had something to do with Nottingham Week," Meyer said. "I had no idea it had anything to do with teacher of the year.

"I just see myself as having the same ability as everyone else in this building - they're all excellent teachers. So when they throw an award like that at you, you think, 'do I deserve this more than anyone else does?'"

She said her students' reaction - both when they are in and out of the classroom - to her awards embarrasses her. They gave her a raucous round of applause during the assembly and congratulated her when they got back to class, Meyer said they also bring her newspapers when she is in the paper.

"They were pretty proud of their teacher," she said. "It's sweet of them because they're thinking about me and making sure I have everything I need so it's really nice."

Though Meyer has plans to go into administration, the recent awards she has won make her question a little bit whether or not administration is the right place for her.

"You see it all the time where people pull great teachers out of the classroom to be administrators," Meyer said. "So, when people are telling me I'm a great teacher, I don't want to leave the classroom if that's where I need to be. But at the same time, maybe I could be even a better administrator if I strive as hard as I am now.

"Once I get my master's degree, hopefully I'll have a better understanding of what administrators do."

When the time comes, she will have had good role models throughout the district to emulate - most notably her administrator, Nottingham Principal Jim Lauer, Meyer said.

"Mr. Lauer will always ask us if there's anyway he can help us," she said. "He's constantly saying, 'I'll take your kids whenever you want' - he'll read them a story, he'll do whatever he can to help. And I do look up to those people because they're in a position where they don't have to be in the classroom but they're still willing to go and help people.

"That's the type of person I want to be, I don't want to be stuck in my office where no one sees me and only be the discipline person."

Lauer is not concerned and said the timing is the key to Meyer's success.

"You understand the classroom and what goes on, and at a point in her career, I think it would be a wise choice," he said. "It's a huge loss for a school, and it has a huge impact on the teacher to be away from the kids. But what makes her a good teacher will make her a good administrator."

In any case, the recent spate of awards has not caused Meyer to believe her teaching is as good as advertised.

"I'm not even close to having it down," she said. "Everyday is still a challenge for me, so I'm constantly learning new things. I don't think I'll ever have it down. I don't keep anything the same and I'm making new stuff every year."

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