After a life of selling software left Meredith Gannon feeling unfulfilled, she set her sights on a more noble cause: teaching.
And it was apparently the right fit for Gannon, an instructional coach at Tukes Valley Primary School. She was recently awarded the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. The award, administered by the National Science Foundation, is the highest national honor a teacher can receive, Battle Ground Public Schools announced early this month. She received a $10,000 award, and a certificate signed by President Barack Obama.
“It’s such an honor to be included in a group of people that’s so accomplished,” Gannon said. “I think it’s a great feeling to be recognized personally, but in my role I get to see every single day the awesome work teachers are doing.”
As an instructional coach for Battle Ground Public Schools, Gannon helps teachers improve their methods by looking at student data and lesson plans to design more engaging activities. She did similar work in Vancouver Public Schools, where she was a teacher for nine years and instructional coach for a year at Sacajawea Elementary School. It was her work there that earned her the nomination from a parent in the 2013-2014 school year.
“She was a leader from the start,” Sacajawea Elementary Principal Travis Bond said. “Very, very organized and driven.”
Gannon’s pride is in taking students outside the classroom and into the field, allowing them to become hands-on explorers and scientists. At Sacajawea Elementary School, she helped coordinate Salmon in the Classroom programs where students hatched salmon from eggs, then released them into Salmon Creek.
“I hope they take away the connection with their own natural world,” Gannon said. “I hope they feel empowered as student scientists.”
But Gannon’s resume goes on. She coordinated the installation of a solar panel array through a Solar 4R Schools grant at Sacajawea. In other projects, Gannon led a lunch-time recycling program, spearheaded the creation of a garden of native plants and led the school’s Green Team, a program for which she won the Department of Education Green Ribbon School Award and five Washington Green School Awards.
“I really believe in active student learning and engaging all kids,” she said. “I think one powerful way to do that is by getting kids outside of the four walls of the classroom.”
Gannon, who is a third-generation teacher, traveled to Washington, D.C. to accept her award this month. There, she collaborated with more than 200 science and math teachers, and said she’s eager to bring some of those ideas back into her own classroom.
And as for finding fulfillment in her job? Gannon said she feels it every day.
“It’s that moment where you look at a student’s face and you can just see they’ve made some connection, where the light bulb has gone off for them,” Gannon said. “Nothing compares to that moment of learning in the classroom.”