In our new blog series, we are interviewing a member of the CT3 team about their background in education as well as the expertise that they each bring to their work with educators across the country.
Why did you want to become a teacher?
During my junior year of college, I had a life-changing opportunity to intern with a specialized school abroad in Sydney, Australia. Lucas Gardens School supported students with intensive physical and developmental disabilities. At that point, I was intent on getting my Master’s in Counseling or Social Work, but the teachers I supported in Sydney were awe-inspiring. I recognized the unique and deep impact of a teacher in a different way than I had before, and I left that experience knowing I needed to find a way to teach.
Tell us about your background in education.
I studied Psychology and Sociology at Lafayette College. After my experience in Sydney, Teach For America was one of the only programs I could find that would give me access to teach and support me with getting my certification without having a formal education background. Teach For America placed me in Charlotte, NC – and the rest was history!
What was your first teaching experience like? What did it teach you?
I bring the lessons my kids taught me that first year into my everyday work with kids, teachers, and leaders. During that year, I taught 7th and 8th grade students in a special education resource setting at Cochrane Middle School; I taught math and English Language Arts across the day with a group of 15 kids. Many kids initially carried a lot of shame about coming to my classroom and getting special education services, especially during such a fragile, highly social time in middle school. In addition to learning how to lesson plan and execute on relatable and rigorous content each day, my big priority became building a culture in our classroom in which we were proud in who we were and confident in the growth we could make.
I quickly realized that it was one thing to speak positivity into my kids, but it was another to walk my talk each day. I can’t count the nights I stayed up far too late modifying my lessons or activities, or researching a new incentive system, or ruminating over the next best idea to try to connect with my toughest kid. I learned countless lessons about efficient planning and the power of authentic relationship-building. My kids deserved my best, and I do wish I had gotten there faster for them. Nonetheless, I’m still deeply proud of the gains they made that year and the relationships I still have with them today.
Do you have any regrets from your first few years of teaching that you wish you could do over?
I wish I would have been more consistent! I tried so many different systems and routines and was so inconsistent with my accountability – always in search for a better way to get my kids motivated and reinforce the right learning behaviors. I made things far more complicated than they needed to be, instead of just sticking to a few high leverage procedures and one system of accountability. As a result of my inconsistency, it took me too long to establish a culture of predictability, safety, and learning that would have allowed my kids to thrive faster.
What is your unique perspective when working with teachers, coaches, or principals?
I believe each of us inherently want to be great for our kids and has a unique “why” that brought us to education. I also know this work feels difficult and emotional at times. So without high expectations and aligned support, educators can feel paralyzed or stifled. In my coaching, I focus on finding and understanding each educator’s purpose and motivation and empowering them to see and understand how they can align the belief and mentality of a No-Nonsense Nurturer to create the lasting impact they set out to make. If we do our job well, educators can tap back into that motivation and purpose, align and grow their toolkits, and realize a whole new vision for what is possible for their kids and their success.
What are you an ‘expert’ in besides the work of CT3?
Expert is definitely too high of a standard for this, but when I’m not working and at home in Charlotte, I love being active and outside. I’ve become an avid runner, and I’m looking forward to competing in more races in the spring and summer!
What, in your opinion, is the most important aspect of a school in order to best serve students?
The most important aspect of a school that best serves students is a collective growth mindset and coaching culture.
As a principal in Charlotte, NC, this was the lever I worked most intently to push, but I needed support and coaching myself to understand it as the foundation to an effective school culture. When we began our journey as a No-Nonsense Nurturing school, I had to look in the mirror and be honest with myself about my default behaviors and mindsets that simply were not working for staff and kids at Ashley Park. This level of ownership can be difficult; as the leader, I needed to model honesty and vulnerability, and then I needed to model what it meant to have a growth mindset about myself and about my staff in order to shift our culture.
That consistent “look in the mirror” and aligned leadership action led way to my staff doing the same for their kids. It paved the way to roll out Real Time Teacher Coaching® for every teacher, as well as in-the-moment feedback from our administrative team. It allowed us to ground our weekly professional development in video analysis of instructional strategies, role playing, practice, and peer learning walks. Over time and consistency, staff became fully engaged in experimenting with new ideas and strategies, reflecting on their own impact on kids, and providing productive feedback to others.
In short – a coaching culture provides a safe space for ownership of impact and aligned action to maximize it. When a culture values a growth mindset and a sense of possibility for its members, the qualitative and quantitative wins for kids are limitless.
What is your best advice for a first-year teacher?
Your kids want to know you care about them, that you’re willing to hold them accountable, and that you believe they can do anything. Executing on these beliefs and learning the tools needed to fulfill these promises in your first year are difficult, and you’re learning so many lessons on a day-to-day basis. Give yourself grace and commit again and again to sending these messages to your kids each day in your words AND actions. When you mess up, own it. When a scholar is pushing back on you, take time to lean in and show them authentic love and care. Instead of drawing assumptions, ask questions of your kids and get to know what they want, care about, and are motivated by. And when you provide a consequence, tell them it’s because you care too much about them to let them do less. Kids will know and sense you mean it; once they invest in you, the lesson planning and aligned learning can manifest on a whole new level.
If you could only tell educators ONE thing about No-Nonsense Nurturer®, what would it be?
No-Nonsense Nurturer is a way of being. It isn’t isolated to steps, or a program, or a set of skills. It’s being a leader each day – for kids or for adults – who has a deep belief in each child’s inherent potential, who provides love and care, and who executes on clear and high expectations. Our four-step model, suites of pedagogy, and leadership behaviors are simply the tools that align to this way of being.
What’s been your proudest moment working with educators?
I had countless proud moments as a school leader, and at the core of each were teachers I supported and retained making an indelible impact on our kids’ lives. Yet as a teacher, my proudest moment will forever be the day my kids got their test scores back in my second year of teaching. We had a collective 90% pass in math and a 3-year growth average in math and ELA, and I got to watch my kids see the impact of their hard work and a proof point of their greatness. While I deeply value data as a former teacher and leader, this moment wasn’t about that. It was about my kids experiencing a sense of pride around their brilliance and feeling a sense of contagion about what else was possible.
I have to share my very close second to this proud moment, which was when our middle school women’s softball team won our first and only game of our season. I coached baseball and softball my second and third year of teaching, and my group of girls had never played before. We learned everything from the ground up: the rules of the game, how to catch, how to throw, how to run the bases, and how to slide. Only a couple of them had ever been a part of a team. When India fielded a ball at first base and stepped on the bag to score the final out of the game, the girls realized they had won and celebrated together in the most beautiful way. I remember just watching them and reveling in how proud they were of themselves and what they had accomplished together (and may have shed some serious tears myself!).
Click here to read this “love letter” that was published on a local Charlotte site during Meaghan’s principalship. It was intended to honor her staff at Ashley Park PreK-8 School. They were and are an incredible group of educators who love kids so well.
Click here to read more about Meaghan.
Connect with Meaghan:
- Twitter: @MeaghanLoftus4
- LinkedIn: Meaghan Loftus
To read more about No-Nonsense Nurturer and Real Time Teacher coaching, visit this page.