Interview with Megan McWeeney
over iced coffee in West Loop, Chicago, IL.
How she is making a difference in the world: Megan has been a teacher in the Chicago Public School system for seven years. She is part of a team that works with underperforming schools within CPS network to turn them around until they are high-achieving.
Megan’s energy is contagious and her loyalty to working with an underserved population is inspiring. Though she has now been teaching for several years, her career path didn’t start out in education.
After getting accepted to the University of Michigan, she expressed interest in studying education.
“I had always wanted to be a teacher but before freshman year, my family urged me to pick a different major thinking I could pursue something more lucrative.” Megan said.
She graduated with a degree in communications and held impressive internships like working in the Gucci showroom in New York City and at B96 Radio Station in Chicago. After working at a marketing agency for several months post-graduation, her desire to be a teacher was still present and she decided to listen to her inner voice.
“I’ve always wanted to work with low income and underserved kids.”
“I knew I could do something else like sales, and be successful, and make a lot more money but I also knew it wouldn’t be fulfilling.”
She applied to National Lewis University and obtained her master’s degree in education. That fall she began teaching and hasn’t looked back.
Megan’s career change isn’t surprising. Her fierce desire to serve others extends beyond the classroom. In high school and college she was always involved with service opportunities: from spending time at the Boys and Girls Club of Waukeegan to using her free-time to tutor children at inner-city schools in Detroit, from spending a summer teaching in Africa to visiting Haiti more than seven times post-earthquake at an orphanage, it is clear where Megan’s heart lies.
Q: Megan, who instilled in you this desire to serve others?
A: I’m not sure where it comes from! So much of my time has been spent volunteering and I think it’s just something that won’t ever leave. My parents are very generous and very loving people but they’re not overly involved in service or volunteering. They just instilled in me compassion for other people.
Q: Tell me more about being a teacher.
A: I’ve taught 1st grade since I started teaching six years ago. This year, I’ll teach 2nd grade subjects so I’ll be able to see all of my kids that I just had last year which is so exciting. I’ve been teaching at my current school for four years now. My first year was when I was brought in as part of the ‘turn around team.’ CPS has different ratings for how schools are performing. When I first started at this school it had the lowest score, now it has the highest.
Q: What are some challenges you face as a teacher and some successes?
A: Sometimes kids can just be hard to reach. How do you get a kid who doesn’t care at all about school, to care? You just try, as best as you can, to reach as many kids as you can throughout the year. On the flip-side, there are always kids you have strong connections with as well as little victories. I’ve had kids that started off not knowing how to read then I witness them reading by themselves for the first time!
Q: What are some tips/advice you have to those trying to pursue their passions or pursuing teaching specifically?
A: 1. It’s important to set time aside for yourself. Sometimes this job, or jobs in general, can consume you. You have to know when to turn it off. Being a teacher is great as far as time off goes. When I do have time off I try to take advantage of it like traveling or spending time with friends.
2. Establish boundaries.
3. Stay on top of your workload. It’s easy to fall behind, especially with being a teacher. I have time everyday to prepare for the next and I always make sure to take advantage of it.
4. Soak up the rewarding moments. When you see a success, no matter how big or small, it’s a victory. It’s really fun to help a child build up their confidence.
Learn more about the Chicago Public School system here.