The Educator Spotlight recognizes those who contribute to the education of local students. Educators were chosen by consulting with site PTA, student government organizations and staff. Educators were chosen for their reputations with students, staff, parents and the community.
Peggy O’Meara is a self-proclaimed “true Southside girl.” She attended Grant Elementary School, John Adams Middle School, and SAMOHI. She says her SMMUSD education exposed her to “stability, great music programs, art, and sports.” Her parents and other families dedicated significant time to the community and schools and she is trying to live up to that commitment as a 15-year veteran teacher in the district.
O’Meara started off at JAMS as an Instructional Assistant in an SAI classroom and then moved on to teach SDC science and math for 5 years. Her next 5 years were spent at Grant Elementary teaching an SDC 4/5 class. Now she’s just finished up her fifth year at Roosevelt. She says, “if there is a pattern, watch out.”
In her current assignment O’Meara is most excited about the team of Special Educators she works with.
“They are fantastic and dedicated to the field. Every school I’ve worked at it has been this way. The hours we put into our job goes on around the clock. I am often talking to my school psychologists at 11:30 at night just to continue a discussion about a student we need to problem solve for,” she said.
For her 16th year, her goals are to work on a more project based learning as well as to collaborate more with the General Education teachers, hoping to build “more powerful instruction and get into the classrooms to work with them.”
O’Meara is inspired by her students, her family, and Malcolm X. She is grateful when she sees her students “succeeding, and making healthy and happy choices for their lives. They show me something beautiful, and they cause me to laugh, weep, listen, and learn.”
As for Malcolm X she admires his tenacity and “gritty drive to learn, to better himself, and to see things in a different light. I’ve always loved the rebels.”
IN HER OWN WORDS
Some days what keeps me here is difficult to answer: it is a hard job. It’s harder now that I have two kids under the ages of 6 and this job takes me away from them due to many late meetings. What keeps me here are the families. The families deserve and need to feel that their child is part of the community: that they are important. It is not always something conveyed with families who have kids with Special Needs. I want them to be a part of the community, and I want them to share the significant contributions their child has to offer the community.
I am a big fan of inclusion, collaboration, and Universally Designed Instruction. I still feel there are significant strides to be made in these areas and it takes a lot of effort, determination and illuminating light, to convince people, administrators, the district and families of what power we give everyone when we include all. Programs must be properly implemented, with depth of training and knowledge that continues over time. It does not look the same for special education and as with any program; we do a disservice when we don’t provide time and appropriate programming. We must advantage our disadvantaged populations. Every student has something they are passionate about, and I feel we, as educators and a community should encourage and celebrate each students passions, whether it be to play football, write code, design clothes, build cars, be a doctor, an artist, whatever. We have to acknowledge those passions, invest in each student and bring that into the work they do and we do in our classroom. Also bring back recess and play based learning for goodness sake! Kids need more time to play, and be creative outside the classroom. Learning takes place everywhere.
My long term goal is simply to change; to metamorphosize into a super teacher like the ones I’ve worked with all these years. Also, I want to learn to surf. It kills me I’ve grown up here and don’t surf. I’m open to lessons.