Teachers are in unique position to influence people’s lives from an early age, for better or worse, and we all have memories of both. Meredith Holt (’05, MAT ’06) is definitely one of the former, and channels an immense positivity into her work as an educator. “I love children and helping people,” she says. “I really enjoy having the opportunity to make an impact on our future generations at an early and important stage in their lives.”
Holt majored in psychology, then went on to complete CNU’s Master of Arts in Teaching Program. That combination of great academics and certification was instrumental in preparing her for the rigors of teaching. She notes that the field experiences she undertook at CNU were pivotal to her professional development. “My time at CNU led me to think about how I could impact the world, not just hold a job,” says Holt. “CNU has so much to offer through the focus on scholarship, leadership and service.” She tries to bring these same principles to her school. “I want my students to leave my classroom as independent readers, writers and mathematicians, but I also feel that it's extremely important for them to gain confidence at an early age and know they can do anything they put their minds to in life.”
Holt, who teaches first grade at Saunders Elementary School in Newport News, is the winner of a Coastal Virginia Magazine Top Teacher award for 2014 (see video below). For her, being a teacher is all about balancing the challenges and rewards that come with the job. “A big challenge most teachers face is class size,” she says. “I believe every child should have time with their teacher, but it's almost impossible to do that. I try really hard to set aside one-on-one time with my students, but I never feel like I can give them the time they deserve.”
I think the most rewarding part of teaching is seeing the growth where they start out in September to where they end June in first grade that’s huge, so that is really rewarding to me.
Well I went to Christopher Newport University and I’ve always known I wanted to be a teacher. So I did the masters program there and I did a lot of subbing while I was at CNU, and I did a lot of hours just in the local schools in Newport News, and once I started doing that I new I wanted to be a teacher.
I think some of the biggest challenges is just meeting the expectations of home and school, sometimes you know kids don’t have a lot support from the home so it’s hard to be able to do all that you want to do when there not able to go home and get all that extra help you want them to get.
Yet through these challenges, Holt is inspired by the great rewards the teaching profession brings her. “I love seeing the excitement in my students' eyes when they realize, ‘I can do it!’ It's also so rewarding to see my students come in the classroom each morning with a smile on their face ready to take on the world.” Tim Edwards, Principal at Saunders, sees the results of Holt’s approach every day. “She is exceptionally gifted as a teacher in all areas, says Edwards. “Her lessons and delivery of concepts is unbelievable, and she molds her students to be independent problem solvers and solid citizens.”
Indeed, the leadership and professional skills she learned at CNU have allowed Holt to thrive in her teaching, both in and out of the classroom, as Edwards observes, “She is a leader within her grade level and within the school. She’s kind and caring and the consummate professional.” He reserves perhaps the highest praise one can give a teacher: “She is that teacher that you want your own children to have,” Edwards says.