Skyline High School Principal Cory McElmeel says math teacher Megan Stark is an important part of the Skyline team. “She is somewhat new to the district, but has been doing an exceptional job engaging kids who haven’t typically liked math before,” he says. “She is dynamic.”
Megan Stark grew up in Howell, the oldest of eight children. Her parents, Gena and Steve Hoeft supported the family as a full-time homemaker and a Toyota engineer. Stark attended a private
high school in Lansing before moving on to the University of Michigan, where she became a diehard Michigan fan. She has been a teacher for 12 years, with the last two at Skyline.
Stark is a single mom to “the world’s coolest kiddo.” “She is my world, and I love her more than anything,” she says. “She is the Rory to my Lorelei.”
They have three cats, although her daughter is hoping for more.
Stark loves to read and says she’s obsessed with coffee, pandas, ice cream, Game of Thrones, Avengers, and Highland cows.
How do you feel about the 2022-23 school year, and the emphasis on dignity?
Honestly? It’s about time. Equity is a huge issue and there are practices that, when I started 12 years ago, would be considered a no-no now. Our goals as teachers are to reach each and every student. So we need to make sure that our classroom practices make that happen.
How long does it take you to get back into the rhythm of the school year?
I would say a few weeks! Just to remember what it’s like getting up so early. The content I can manage. The waking up early is a stretch.
Any tips for new teachers?
You can do anything, but you can’t do everything! Set timers for your work and only work till the timer; you have to set healthy boundaries between you and your work.
When you recall your first year of teaching, what memories stand out?
It was so difficult! But only because I didn’t have great work/personal life boundaries. But I made my best friends that year, and we’re still close.
What advice would you give to a first-year teacher?
Breathe. And have a cup of coffee. It’s going to be fine.
What inspired you to become a teacher?
The fact that representation matters. Not many women of color are in math or in STEM in general. I wanted to change that for some of my students.
What’s the best compliment anyone could give you?
That they feel safe in my room. That I made them feel safe. That they loved my class, but
they learned more about life than just math.
What’s the happiest part of your day?
Either when students just stop in to say hi, just because. Or when that first sip of coffee
touches my soul.
Why is it important for high school students to learn math?
As corny as it sounds, math really teaches that everything has a solution. You might need to work harder for some answers than others, but every problem has a solution. (Plus they do a lot more math in their daily lives than they realize).
Apps you can’t live without:
I’m a millennial. So all of them. Just kidding. I can’t live without music. So Apple Music and Spotify.
What makes teaching at Skyline unique?
I feel trusted and empowered to do what is right for my students within my classroom. I am respected as a professional in my content.
What do you know about teaching now that you wish you’d known that first year?
Be real with the students. They can spot fake a long way away, and if they recognize you’re real with them, then it creates a much better classroom dynamic.
What is the most rewarding part of teaching?
That “ah ha!” moment that students get after struggling with things…that moment makes it all worth it.
What do you wish everyone realized about the work of a teacher?
It is hard. It is so SO hard. The number of decisions we have to make in a split second is astronomical on top of managing the behaviors of 20-plus students at the same time. Also, that it is my job, not my life.
What is your classroom management strategy?
On the second or third day of school, after all of the “boring” stuff is done (syllabi, procedures, getting-to-know-you activities), we create Social Contracts in each classroom. They revolve around the questions: “What is respect?” “How do you want your teacher to respect you?” “How do you think the teacher wants us to respect her?” “How can we respect each other?” And: “How can we respect the classroom?”
I emphasize to my students that yes, I am their teacher, but that doesn’t mean they have to respect me. I want their respect because I am human and deserving of it. And the same goes for them. This conversation lasts all hour. And we just talk and write down ideas for how we want to be treated in the classroom. This is a document that they can use to hold me accountable and vice versa. Students deserve a voice and a choice in how they are treated; I like to give them that. This has worked really well in my classrooms.
How do you recharge?
Don’t open my school computer. Read a book. Go for walks/work out. Eat ice cream and watch a movie with my daughter.
How do you spend your summers?
I actually teach at the University of Michigan over the summer. I teach programs for middle and high school students. We do coding and robotics. It’s a lot of fun.
What’s most exciting about your professional life right now? Your personal life?
I decided to get my master’s degree in Instructional Design and Technology—in nine months. I’ll
be done with my program on December 16!
That doesn’t mean you’ll be leaving us, does it?
I honestly don’t know what the future holds, but for now, AAPS and Skyline are stuck with me!