Megan Anderson has been a steady fixture at 21st Century Charter School @ Gary since 2007. “I had been teaching preschool in Gary at a private school for five years,” Megan explains. “I wanted to come to 21st Century because of the technology, and they were doing a lot of teacher services. I also wanted to further my education, and just be around what’s new and current. It just sounded like what I wanted.”
And Megan is a person who does seem to know who she is, and what she wants. “I’ve worked with kids since I was 16. I did afterschool daycare in Carmel, IN. And I liked it. I figured out that was what I needed to do – education. I became site director there when I was 18. Since then, I knew I wanted to teach kids. So I went to college to get a degree in Education, and have gotten my Master’s in Teacher Leadership while working here. I kinda just always knew.”
At first, Megan was hired as a Kindergarten teacher at the 21st Century Charter Elementary School. Over the past eight years, however, her role at the school has evolved and grown to encompass a wide range of responsibilities. At first, Megan spent several years as a Kindergarten and 1st grade teacher. After her success in the classroom, Megan advanced to the position of Title 1 coordinator for the school, before taking on new responsibilities as the Core Knowledge curriculum coordinator. Most recently, Megan played a key role in the creation of The Cougar Den, 21st Century Charter’s preschool, which opened its doors in August, 2014. “My background is in early childhood. And when I was in grad school, I did action research on vocabulary. Urban kids from impoverished areas come to Kindergarten with a vocabulary deficit. So I thought that if we created this preschool, and used Core Knowledge curriculum, which is big on background knowledge and vocabulary, we would combat those deficits. So when they got to Kindergarten, those gaps might not be so prevalent. And that is exactly what we’re doing.” GEO Foundation puts a big emphasis on providing the opportunities for student growth at GEO schools. The Pre-School program at 21st Century Charter was founded in order to solidify essential reading, writing, and math skills as early as possible, in order to foster future educational success for 21st Century Charter scholars.
In addition to her ongoing work in Title 1 and Core Knowledge for the school, Megan is also a mentor teacher, through the TAP(System for Teacher and Student Advancement) program at 21st Century Charter. Megan also oversees the RTI (Response to Intervention) program at 21st Century Charter, working one-on-one with students to locate gaps in their abilities and to advise teachers, parents, and leadership on these students’ needs. “My job has grown, and grown, and grown,” Megan says. “I know the kids, and I know the parents, and I know the wishes of the school, and I sit on the leadership team. I want to be here, I choose to be here, I’ve never thought about leaving here. So, when opportunities have presented themselves, I’ve said, ‘I’ll do it!’”
Megan has written grants for and founded numerous extracurricular afterschool programs for Elementary students, including a Cooking Club, the Student of the Month program, and the Building Literacy with Legos program, which meets as an afterschool club. Megan came up with the idea for the Lego program, and wrote a Ken Woodruff Mini Grant to cover expenses with the help of school Principal Chris Evans. Teachers nominate two kids from each grade to participate in the club, “So, it’s an elite club,” Megan notes. “The only requirements are that you have to be polite, and respectful, and work well with others. It isn’t about GPA, or sports ability, or popularity – it has nothing to do with that. It’s just about who makes good choices. We wanted a good group of kids, who wanted to learn, and play, and be creative.”
This statement reflects Megan’s teaching philosophy. “I believe that playing is learning, and learning is playing. So, if I can figure out how to do that, and teach standards, and keep the kids happy and healthy, and keep parents happy, and the school happy, well – that’s kind of what I do.” “I’m a big believer that this school is a home away from home. That’s a big thing for me. So, I’ll tell kids,” here Megan puts her hand to her heart, “When you’re with me, I’m in charge of you. And once you’re with me, you’re always a part of me. So, you’re associated with me. And I think our parents believe that this school is a home away from home. So, you take care of your child at home, and when they’re here, you don’t have to worry about them, because we got them here. We’ll take care of it.”
What makes her stay at 21st Century Charter? For Megan, it’s the high level of parent-teacher communication that takes place at the school, and the benefits of working at a school that is small enough for her to catch up with the 7th graders in the Secondary building she taught as 1st graders. Overall, “Every day is different,” she says. “And it’s not what I do – it’s what the kids do, that makes the day.”