WASHINGTON, Pa. (October 13, 2014) — Kelly Meeder ’09 is on a quest to change her students’ lives.
Meeder, a Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) graduate who now teaches at Lakeland Elementary/Middle School in Baltimore, Md., is one of three finalists in the running for a $100,000 grant to improve technology in her classroom.
This grant, offered through a program called the “Dream Big Challenge,” is a Farmers Insurance initiative that supports teachers with innovative ideas. Meeder is part of a group of teachers at Lakeland that wants to “drive instruction through use of technology.”
“Many families in our community are not set up with adequate technology supplies in their homes, and they look to Lakeland for support,” said Meeder. “However, our own technology is limited and increasingly outdated.”
“My ‘big dream,’” she added, “is to expand technology use throughout our entire school.”
The public can vote for Meeder's project and others at the Farmers Insurance Thank a Million Teachers website.
If Lakeland is selected as the recipient of this grant, Meeder’s “big dream” will come true. Technology at Lakeland will be expanded by creating a Farmers Technology Lab with 30 new computers, obtaining laptop carts and iPads for classroom use, and implementing parent and teacher technology training programs.
Originally from Columbus, Oh., Meeder majored in childhood development and education at W&J. She discovered Lakeland at a teacher’s fair during her senior year of college. “I knew I wanted to experience a new part of the country,” she said, “and when I got a call from Lakeland, I didn’t even hesitate.”
Meeder has taught at Lakeland for six years. The school includes Pre-K through eighth grades, and she has taught Pre-K, first grade, and now, seventh-grade language arts.
According to Meeder, the majority of Lakeland students receive free and reduced meals, and a significant number of students are learning English as a second language.
“We are a community school that strives to prepare our students for high school, college, and beyond,” she said. “This grant will help inspire hundreds of students to search for what they find meaningful in their lives through a whole new realm of technological opportunities.”
Although winning the Dream Big Challenge would supply Lakeland with vast technological improvements, Meeder said that grant or no grant, she comes to school every day believing that her students can succeed as long as she is giving them the motivation they need.
“I really challenge myself to try out new teaching techniques,” she said. “To engage each student, in my class we learn in a collaborative environment. Having the students communicate and express themselves makes learning more meaningful, and they will be able to utilize that learning in the future.”
Meeder also emphasized the importance of cultivating strong bonds between teacher and students. She said that many students need someone older to turn to while at school, and that even the young ones are intuitive enough to know when a faculty member truly cares for them. This, she explained, is something she learned through the W&J Education Department.
“The Education Department at W&J offered me something that many new teachers do not get to experience, and that is having so much time interning in a classroom before I was teacher-certified,” she said. “As a freshman at W&J, I had an internship and was getting to know various school cultures right away.”
In addition to creating strong teacher-student relationships, Meeder said that her time at W&J showed her the value of striving for high classroom productivity.
“At first, I thought my professors were overloading us with work,” she said. “But as I started my first year of teaching, I realized that every detail was just as important as they said.” According to Meeder, early exposure to fast-paced educational environments at W&J continues to help her as she completes her sixth year of teaching.
Meeder said that if she wins the Dream Big Challenge, she hopes that she can learn and share knowledge with new teachers about how to effectively use technology in the classroom. “I would love to stay in contact with the W&J community and possibly build a partnership that involves first-year teachers in the Education Department,” she said.
Vote for Meeder's project here: https://www.thankamillionteachers.com/vote-for-a-proposal/