Last Friday, Gov. Ned Lamont SOM ’80 visited Meghan Hatch-Geary’s classroom, where he surprised her with the news that she had been selected as Connecticut’s 2020 Teacher of the Year, the state’s highest teaching recognition.
Lamont, along with the Connecticut Commissioner of Education Miguel Cardona, awarded the Woodland Regional High School English teacher the honor on Nov 1. According to the official press release, Hatch-Geary was selected for the recognition based on her passion for “working with young people both inside and outside of the classroom.”
“It was an absolutely thrilling moment … to have the governor come into my classroom was a huge honor and a powerful experience for both me and my students,” Hatch-Geary said in an email to the News. “I am so excited that this will shine a little light on our phenomenal district.”
The Connecticut Teacher of the Year Council, founded in 1952, manages the Teacher of the Year program and its rigorous selection process. The council is made up of former recipients of the award, members from the state’s Department of Education and other members of the community. In choosing the recipient of this year’s award, the council reviewed nearly 100 applications, conducted on-site visits and held individual interviews with prospective candidates.
As a faculty member at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls, Hatch-Geary teaches a number of classes, including freshman world literature and AP English language and composition. Her passion for teaching extends outside the classroom, and she serves as a co-adviser for the class of 2022 and as the co-chair of the school’s data team. Hatch-Geary also helped found Woodland Worldwide, an extracurricular organization that aims to empower young women.
“[Hatch-Geary] was selected as the 2020 Connecticut Teacher of the Year because she exemplifies what we aspire to in the teaching profession,” Cardona wrote in an email to the News. “She elevates the work and is a living example of what we know: that teachers shape lives. Whether it is her work with Woodland Worldwide, her efforts to promote gender equity, or her volunteer work that brought her to Africa and Latin America, [Hatch-Geary] has made and is making her community better and inspiring and empowering her students to do the same.”
According to a Friday press release, Woodland Worldwide received a Recognition of Excellence in Education Award in 2013 from the Connecticut Association of Schools for raising awareness about gender discrimination and media bias, promoting equal access to education for females, advancing leadership and service opportunities, combating gender stereotyping and working to end human trafficking worldwide.
Hatch-Geary said she was not always sure that she wanted to be a teacher and spent a number of years working in other fields before she decided to search for work that would give her life meaning and make a positive impact on the world. She travelled to Ghana and Ecuador to volunteer as a teacher, where she discovered her calling.
“I realized that my passions and talents coalesced in the classroom,” Hatch-Geary said. “I quite literally had this epiphany in the middle of a jungle where I was working on a rainforest farm and sharing quarters with a monkey named Chita.”
According to Lamont’s Friday release, Connecticut Teacher of the Year finalists are appointed to various education advisory committees and serve as consultants to the commissioner of education. Finalists present workshops, speak at education conferences and meetings, and address student and governmental groups across the state. The Connecticut Teacher of the Year also represents the state at the national level by participating in national educational forums, National Teacher of the Year Program preparations and U.S. Department of Education meetings.
Hatch-Geary said that receiving the award reminded her how glad she is to have followed her passion for teaching.
“[Receiving the award is] incredibly gratifying and affirms for me that I made the right choice all those years ago in the jungle,” Hatch-Geary told the News. “I now have an opportunity to share my love of this profession with others, and I hope it means I’ll have an opportunity to affect some positive change in the areas where we need it most, including literacy, racial equity and diversifying the workforce.”
Four Connecticut teachers have gone on to be recognized as National Teachers of the Year since 1953.
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