by Kate Evans
Paw Paw High School science teacher Megan Bennett was named Morgan County Teacher of the Year at the March 30 school board meeting. The award is given annually to an outstanding, dedicated and skilled county teacher who inspires students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn.
Bennett is in her fifth year of teaching science at Paw Paw High School, which was her first teaching assignment. She has a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Biochemistry from Shepherd University and a Master’s of Arts Degree of Teaching from Fairmont State University.
Bennett was also a tutor at Shepherd University, tutoring students in science and other subjects. She was inspired to become a teacher by her past teachers and also by a lot of people that she tutored in college. They needed help to get concepts and didn’t feel they got help in high school, she noted.
Bennett said she has always loved science and asked for rock tumblers and microscopes for presents as a kid.
“I’ve always been fascinated by science and how the world works,” she said.
Bennett said that her teaching philosophy is more about building relationships with students. You build relationships and respect and kids are more interested in what you’re trying to teach them.
Bennett ties the content to what’s more relevant to special classes or students. Her seventh graders like computer games and she found a resource that has them answer trivia questions.
Bennett said she has a robotics project in the eighth grade career exploration class where students are building EV3 Lego robots. They’re also looking at human genetics disorders in biology class.
Some major science projects that she’s done this year with her students are Milky Way Plate Tectonics, Stop Disaster Simulations and a blood typing lab.
Cacapon Institute staff just came to work on their tree farm and instruct students on the importance of trees and keeping the environment around them healthy.
Bennett serves on the Sunshine Fund Committee where Paw Paw Schools staff donates money and supplies whenever hardships arise in the school or community.
Bennett is also the Paw Paw High School Student Council advisor. One of their projects is holding community blood drives. They hope to have blood drives again whenever COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, she said.
Bennett said that what she enjoys about teaching is “sharing my love of science and showing my students that someone cares about them.” She tries to promote honesty, integrity and compassion in her students.
Bennett’s advice to teachers that are just starting out in the field is “to build relationships with their students and to never stop learning as a teacher.”
Loves her school, community
Bennett loves Paw Paw Schools and said she loves the community both within and outside the school.
“I also love my small class sizes so that I am better able to educate my students,” Bennett said.
Bennett said her family is native to the Paw Paw community and that her grandfather, father, aunts and uncles all graduated from Paw Paw High School.
Bennett said that she feels very blessed and honored about receiving the Teacher of the Year Award and being able to represent her school and community.
Paw Paw Schools Principal Melinda Kasekamp said that Bennett has done an excellent job of designing and implementing six grades of science curriculum. She has developed strong relationships with students, cares about each of them and it shows in her actions, Kasekamp noted.
“She is the most trusted adult in the high school,” Kasekamp said.
Bennett’s science room is full of lab materials, periodic charts and experiments in progress along with science concepts and science terms everywhere, Kasekamp said. Bennett “dissects difficult science concepts into manageable units for her students and then builds on those units.”
“Instruction is a mix of whole group, lab groups and individual support as needed. Megan has excelled in the world of virtual learning as a regular user of online labs for students and the use of multi-media sites for students to visit. Students can watch experiments online that she would normally do in the classroom. She reads the textbook virtually and uses Kami to complete worksheets with students,” Kasekamp added.
“Her outreach to students during this time has been commendable. I observe her in the office every day calling parents, grandparents and students to give the help that students need. She works tirelessly to get work turned in and to help students progress in their science journey. She is determined to help students be successful despite our current challenges,” she said of Bennett.
Bennett “is flexible, cooperative and a huge asset to the high school,” Kasekamp said.