Connecticut Teacher of the Year 2020 - Meghan Hatch-Geary
Woodland Regional High School, Regional School District 16
Having been nurtured by incredible arts teachers at Maloney High School in Meriden, Meghan Hatch-Geary initially set out to be on Broadway. She pursued her passion for the performing arts at New York University's Tisch School. After spending two years in the program, she left in search of deeper fulfillment, feeling as though her pursuits were too solitary and self-serving to make her truly happy. Living in New York City, however, provided her with another education. Hatch-Geary developed a diverse group of friends and colleagues who opened her eyes to issues she'd known little about. A transformative experience she had while working as a healthcare advocate for immigrants and their children made her realize it was time to return to school to pursue other passions.
At New York City's Hunter College, Hatch-Geary found herself enamored with a professor in the Black and Latino Studies department. A class she taught on post-colonial literature changed the course of Hatch-Geary's life. It was after reading African, Latinx, and Asian writers that she decided to experience these narratives and histories first hand.
Hatch-Geary had her first teaching experience in a rural fishing village on the coast of Ghana in West Africa. From there she pursued other ventures in the developing nations of Ecuador and Peru. She worked on organic farms, on Amazon reforestation projects, and in local schools. She says, "I was searching for work that would fill me up, that would allow me to use my diverse talents and to make a difference. Eventually I realized that the most profound influences in my life--which include my parents--had centered around teachers and education. My passions, skills, and inspirations all coalesced in the classroom, and so I returned from South America and enrolled in the Graduate School of Education at The University of New Haven."
Meghan Hatch-Geary is now an English teacher at Region 16’s Woodland Regional High School. Currently in her 11th year of teaching, she is passionate about working with young people both inside and outside of the classroom. She teaches Advanced Placement English Language and Composition as well as freshman world literature. She also serves as English teacher for the Region’s alternative program, H.A.W.K.S. (Helping All Woodland Kids Succeed).
Beyond the classroom, Hatch-Geary has advised a diverse array of clubs, including The Gay-Straight Alliance, Preserving our Histories, and One Region, One Book. She is a founding member and co-advisor of Woodland Worldwide, an extracurricular organization that promotes social justice and works to empower young women, developing their leadership skills through activism while expanding opportunities for women and girls both locally and globally. In 2013 the club received a “Recognition of Excellence” award 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." When asked how she ensures that education transcends the classroom, Hatch-Geary responds, "I know that what we’ve provided for our students through Woodland Worldwide has deeply impacted their lives and shaped their futures. I’m fortunate to have maintained strong relationships with students, many of whom have graduated college and are pursuing careers centered around activism, social justice, service, and education. I see the direct results of our impact not only in their choice of profession, but when they return to Woodland to present workshops, perform in our awareness-raising cabaret show, or speak to our classes. They are proof that learning is not relegated to the classroom, and that sometimes the most powerful and lasting lessons happen after school. Working with our students and watching them find and use their voices to take action in their lives and communities has been immeasurably rewarding. It is the reason I became a teacher, and the reason I believe teaching is the most powerful profession in the world."
In 2014, Mrs. Hatch-Geary was named “A Woman to Watch” by the Connecticut Women’s Legal and Education Fund (CWEALF) for "demonstrated leadership, potential to excel, and dedication to the community.” In addition to Woodland Worldwide, she co-advises the Class of 2022, and is the co-chair of Woodand’s schoolwide data team.
Duties of the Connecticut Teacher of the Year
The Connecticut Teacher of the Year and Teacher of the Year finalists serve as teacher-ambassadors for public education. They are appointed to various education advisory committees and become consultants to the Commissioner of Education. They present workshops; speak at education conferences and meetings; address student, civic, college and university, and governmental groups; and operate special programs in accordance with their interests and expertise. The Connecticut Teacher of the Year also represents the state at the national level - participating in national educational forums, National State Teacher of the Year Program planning and networking sessions, and U.S. Department of Education meetings.