Meghan Hatch-Geary is a compassionate, generous, curious, and woke high school English teacher at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls, CT. Her passions for reading, public education, and civic engagement are shared and modeled for her students every day and in every other aspect of her life. It’s no wonder she was awarded with the title of the 2020 CT State Teacher of the Year because she truly cares about her students. For instance, she refers to them as “my kids”, expressing the connection and bond she establishes with each and every single one of her students that enters her classroom. In and outside of school, Geary advocates for feminism and equality. She believes in the philosophy that people should always be learning and evolving.
Geary explains how some people may view feminism as a dirty or scary word and praises women for doing an excellent job of redefining what it means. “Being a feminist means being a person who advocates for gender equality. That is it,” shares Mrs. Geary. Equality is a fundamental value and she believes everyone should be a part of the movement. “If you believe in the American way...then feminism should be a no brainer and people should be outraged when there are inequities,” she elaborates. She shares how it’s as essential as it’s ever been, with the Black Lives Matter movement gaining momentum.
“Feminism still matters and representation matters.”
Mrs. Geary gets her passion from not only her colleagues, but is especially grateful for her parents, Linda and Dan. She considers them to be, “two of the most wise, hardworking, compassionate, and generous people [she] knows”. With a smile on her face, she shares how, when she gets older, she wants to be able to look back on her life and say she has lived a life her parents would be proud of. She expresses her gratitude for her supportive husband and fellow colleague, Paul Geary, whose work ethic, intellect, and curiosity inspires her everyday. She also says how she wouldn’t be where she is without her best friend and colleague, Lisa Olivere, who inspires her to take risks and helped her find herself as a teacher and activist.
When Geary was an intern at Woodland Regional High School, she became a part of the school’s women empowerment club, Woodland Worldwide, which was spearheaded by Olivere and another teacher. When the other co-founder of the club transferred to another school, Olivere invited Geary to become her co-adviser and the power duo has worked effortlessly to bring justice to women’s issues ever since. Geary believes that Woodland Worldwide “fills an essential need in [her] school, district, and towns”.
Beyond Woodland Worldwide, Geary is a role model for her students as she tries to encourage others to believe in themselves and empowers the women and people in her life. In her class, she has her students read works written by diverse people and not just the traditional authors who are white men. She believes the voices of the youth, women, queer, Black, and all communities should be heard and honored. Providing an equitable classroom involves making sure diverse perspectives are given the spotlight. When asked how she models equitable or feminist behavior for her students, she recalled an event two years ago where she realized how much she and her female colleagues talked about diets and weight loss at lunch a lot. She had the realization that this is exactly what she would be telling her students not to do and here she was participating in a toxic, self-deprecating conversation. After confronting the issue with her colleagues and friends, they’ve had much more positive, joyful, and meaningful conversations since.
“We feel guilty for putting ourselves first. It’s a difficult balance to find...self care is not selfish.”
It took a while for Geary to become the strong, self-actualized woman that she is today. She spent some time traveling the world in hopes of finding her true passion and purpose in life. She first prefaces how grateful and fortunate she is to live a life free of strife and recognizes her privilege. She shares how this overseas traveling experience was eye-opening and life changing. There were days where she felt alone, uncertain, like a failure, and that she was “avoiding reality”. Overall, she viewed the experience as being positive. Her favorite destination was her first trip, which was to West Africa, mostly Ghana and Togo. That’s where she had the opportunity to teach and travel. It was a profound experience because she explains how she has never done anything like it. At the end of that period in her life, she was proud of herself for being brave enough to persist through the difficult times and found the experience to be very humbling. She “saw the world for the first time in a very different way”.
When asked what she would tell her younger self, Mrs. Geary responded, “I sold myself short too many times in the pursuit of being likeable.” She regrets her younger self undermining her abilities and changing herself to be perceived as likeable. Geary explains how direct women and direct men receive different treatment. “Women have to compromise themselves to get ahead. We’re told we’re bossy while men are told they are assertive and a leader.” She explains the expectations that women are raised to meet and shares how females are always pressured to be quiet, nice, and obedient. “We feel guilty for putting ourselves first. It’s a difficult balance to find...self care is not selfish.”
Mrs. Geary believes there is not enough representation in our government’s leaders and thinks that the United States’s government institutions should better reflect the makeup of our society. She shares a statistic that women make up 23.7% of the 116th Congress while more than 50% of the US is made up of women. Feminism still matters and representation matters. Mrs. Geary shares her frustrations with the imbalances in representation in government when it comes to gender, race, and ethnicity. She considers teachers to be the “cornerstone of our democracy” because teachers have an impact on their students’ lives and should be shaping our next generation into well-informed citizens, positive leaders and activists. For example, Mrs. Geary encourages her students to read more, stand up for what’s right, and vote.
When Mrs. Geary is not busy cooking nutritious meals for her and her husband, working out, or grading papers and designing lesson plans, you can catch her practicing with her band, Group Therapy. Their next show will be an outdoor concert at the beautiful and historic Mona Lisa’s Pavilion in Wolcott, CT in October.