Catie Meehan

“The thing I love most about teaching at SWS is the feeling of welcome that is in the smiles, hugs, and kindness of all the students and adults. I have never worked in such a wonderful community and I feel very grateful to have this opportunity!

The thing I am most proud of is my beautiful nephew, Darwin. He just turned one year old and he lives with his parents (my brother and sister-in-law) in Sweden. I talk to them and video chat as much as I can but he has certainly stole my heart and I’m so proud to be his aunt.

In my free time I enjoy reading, watching live sports (especially Washington teams, but any team really), making my home more crafty through projects, walking my dog Phebe, looking at silly things on the internet (the sillier the better!), and talking to my family on FaceTime.

I would call my teaching style “constantly evolving.”  In 12 years of teaching, I have never had identical years or done identical lessons because I’ve never had identical kids! Even when I looped with a group, they changed so much going from 8-year-olds to 9-year-olds. I have always looked at the group I have, their strengths and challenges, then at my individual students to plan my lessons and questions to help them do their best thinking and problem solving. I am grateful that my style has changed over the years because allowing myself to do different things, think different ways, and fit the needs of the group in front of me has made me a stronger, more flexible teacher, thinker, and person. I’m thankful for all the students who are helping my evolution.

To make learning fun, it has to be the right amount of challenging and engaging. For something to be engaging, you have to have a connection to it.  It’s my job to get to know my students and be able to present them with learning connections that click on their engagement switch and gives them pathways of challenge — whether that challenge is coming from me or from themselves. We sing, we dance, we make up jokes, we make learning math fun in this room — it mostly comes from them, but it doesn’t hurt that they have a very silly math teacher who adores them.

I had the most amazing fifth grade teacher. She saw each of us as ten-year-old individuals capable of great things. She inspired me to grow up and do the same so I attended James Madison University (Go Dukes!) and became a teacher! I started my career in my hometown of Chesapeake, Virginia, teaching first grade. Three years later, I moved to northern Virginia and joined Fairfax County public schools teaching first grade. The next year I moved up to third grade. I loved the challenge of third grade so I looped with a class from third grade to fourth grade. That’s where I found my passion! Fourth grade has my heart. In my last year in Fairfax, I taught a fourth/fifth grade combination class which gave me a great perspective about how fourth grade learning progresses in the year following. I was so grateful to be able to come to School Within School and do what I love… teach math to fourth graders.

For almost seven years, I’ve been training and working as a Responsive Classroom teacher and presenter. I have been fortunate enough to bring this teaching and community-building philosophy to teachers all over Fairfax County and the country. I’ve presented the Responsive Classroom workshop to teachers in New Jersey, North Carolina, Seattle, Chicago, Wisconsin, DC, and more places to come!”