BEACON FALLS — The path Meghan Hatch-Geary followed to becoming a teacher at Woodland Regional High School was an unconventional one.
“I spent a long time searching for what career I could have that would fulfill me and also allow me to use my myriad of talents,” said Hatch-Geary, a 41-year-old Hamden resident.
After graduating from Maloney High School in Meriden, Hatch-Geary headed off to New York City to study musical theater at New York University and chase her dream of becoming a Broadway star.
But, Hatch-Geary said, she didn’t find her pursuit of Broadway fulfilling on a grand scale. So she transferred to Hunter College where she earned a degree in Black and Latino studies with a minor in English literature.
Her studies at Hunter College encouraged Hatch-Geary, a passionate advocate for social justice, to travel. She spent time living abroad in Africa and South America, where she taught and worked on conservation efforts.
In 2008, while living in a jungle in Ecuador with no running water or electricity and a monkey named Cheetah for a roommate, Hatch-Geary had an epiphany.
“I was like, ‘Hmm, I think I’d be a really good teacher,’” she recalled.
Hatch-Geary returned home and earned as Master of Science degree in education from the University of New Haven. Her path then took her to Woodland, where she interned before being hired as an English teacher in the summer of 2009.
She’s been on the same path ever since and has taken on many roles over the years. Hatch-Geary is the co-adviser for the Class of 2022 and for Woodland Worldwide, a Woodland-based organization with a mission to advance the rights of women and girls within the community and around the world. She teaches with the H.A.W.K.S. Program, Woodland’s alternative education program, and is the co-chair of the data team.
Hatch-Geary added another title to her resume this year: Region 16’s 2019-20 teacher of the year.
Woodland Principal Kurt Ogren said Hatch-Geary personifies “The Woodland Way” and “Hawk Pride.”
“She fully engages her students in the learning process and makes real world connections. Meghan’s students become highly skilled communicators, collaborators, critical and creative thinkers and contributors,” he said. “She always displays a contagious positive attitude and is a true advocate for all Woodland students.”
Hatch-Geary said she was equally delighted and mortified as well as humbled and slightly embarrassed when she learned she was named teacher of the year.
Hatch-Geary said it’s the best to know that students care enough to take the time to nominate her and it’s gratifying to know that her colleagues have seen fit to honor her.
“I love my job and I’m just so happy that people know it and it shows,” she said.
Hatch-Geary said she’s found her calling in the classroom, even if it took a little while. Both her parents worked in education, but she said she shied away from it when she was younger because she felt she needed to do something more exotic.
As it turned out, the classroom is where everything she’s been looking for came together.
“I get to really use those things that I love and I’m good at but just in a more meaningful and fulfilling way,” she said.
Hatch-Geary said teaching is a science and an art. Much of that art is a performance art, knowing how to engage students in the classroom when they question the point of learning material or keeping them committed to an extracurricular activity, she said.
“We’ve taken on a huge responsibility in being teachers. It’s a really powerful and important job, even though sometimes people make you feel otherwise,” Hatch-Geary said. “We’re all in this together and our job is really to help these kids become engaged and informed and passionate citizens who know how to be a part of their civic discourse.”