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AmeriCorps Intern Returns as Teacher Chaperone

Megan Zaranek, fall 2010 AmeriCorps intern, reaped the benefits of her hard work last week when she returned to Jackson campus as a 7th grade science teacher and chaperone for Eagleview Middle School. Soon after the Colorado Springs school hired her, Megan knew she wanted to bring students to the Field Education program of TSS. As there was no precedent, Megan worked tirelessly to involve students in what she knew to be a transformative experience.

Even though she only spent a few months here on campus, she forged strong personal connections with several of the staff, particularly Joe Petrick. Joe proved invaluable in the process of getting Eagleview students to TSS. Megan felt comfortable asking Joe a wide range of questions. He was also immeasurably helpful in addressing tricky logistics.

“Once it all got going, it’s great to be back. I love that it is finally happening because it really was a goal for a long time, and a goal that seemed like it was never going to happen because I was doing it all on my own without much support from my school.”

As someone with TSS connections returned as a chaperone, Megan was in high demand on her last evening, but she graciously agreed to sit and talk for a few minutes about her Teton Science Schools experience. Unprompted, she detailed the wide ranging positive influence TSS has had on her identity as a teacher.

Megan first found TSS through a newspaper ad her father brought home one day. Living in Idaho Falls at the time, the TSS AmeriCorps internship offered her a unique combination of housing, food, and a short distance to travel. There are few internships that offer such a trifecta.

The daughter of two people firmly entrenched in the world of education; Megan came into the AmeriCorps program as a soon to be teacher. She was committed to applying to a Masters program that winter, and therefore framed her experience at TSS with that in mind. Megan says that her time at TSS was a great way to facilitate the first step towards getting comfortable leading kids and formulating curriculum. As she had majored in science in college, Megan’s love of the subject was already cemented. TSS allowed her to share that love with others, and to teach the subject in an effective way.

During our conversation Megan was effusive in praise of her time at TSS and took the time to address many positive aspects of her experience here. As an AmeriCorps, Megan valued constructive feedback on her teaching in the field as well as the opportunity to pursue leadership roles at her own pace. Supervisors were always ready to lend support. Megan also addressed the program’s excellent ability to cater to people with different goals. While Megan knew she wanted to be a teacher, in her cohort were others more interested in the outdoor science component. The AmeriCorps internship allowed people to chase after their own distinct goals and get out of the program what they put in.

Megan went on to say that TSS has been a major inspiration for a lot of what she does in her classroom now. Whether it’s a group juggle, different ways of tree identification, use of the science circle, or playing the pika game (which is hands down one of the kids’ favorite activities), a strong TSS influence can be felt in her lessons. There are several curriculum pieces that she draws from her TSS experience that fit directly with her standards and units.

The few days spent at TSS with her middle schoolers went swimmingly. Megan felt comfortable with the TSS systems, communicating with instructors, and being able to connect what students learn here to what she teaches in the classroom. Now that Megan has paved the way for Eagleview students to visit Jackson, she hopes that future years see increased support from the school system. She relishes the opportunity to go back to Colorado Springs and show others how much the students learned. Many thought she was simply taking kids out camping for a few days.

At the end of our conversation Megan nicely reiterated some sentiments we hear from many field groups. “It’s easy to say that everyone in Colorado is in the mountains and skis all the time, but even kids that literally live under Pike’s Peak think this is still exciting. It’s not [as if they say] ‘we see mountains all the time’. I think it just solidifies the fact that this is special and it is different, and it is worth doing, and it is worth seeing and they can still get a lot out of it. They’ve really just eaten it up.

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