Teacher enjoys broadening minds

Published 10:58 am Tuesday, October 6, 2015

St. Aloysius science teacher Dawn Meeks has spent more than 30 years teaching in Vicksburg, and she’s now teaching her students’ children.

Meeks said she’s on her second generation now and that includes the community trips she takes to Europe each summer. She has taken 23 groups from the Vicksburg community overseas.

“On last year’s Europe trip, I had kids who were the kids of those I had taken to Europe in the ‘90s,” she said. “I look and the mirror and think, ‘how did I get this old this quick?’”

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Meeks said she enjoys working science into the trip, like a physics lesson at the Leaning Tower of Pizza.

“I think broadening the students’ educational minds is important,” she said. “We’re in this microcosm of the southeast, and some people never leave. I don’t think you’re truly educated until you’ve traveled, and I think it’s extremely important to do.”

The trip varies from year to year, but typically includes London, Paris and a small village in Switzerland, Meeks said.

Meeks said she teaches AP biology, anatomy and biology I, adding one of the perks of being in a small school is being able to teach her students year after year.

“I get to teach ninth-grade biology, which means I get to teach them what they need to know for the classes they’ll have later with me,” she said. “It’s also scary because for some of them I’m the only science teacher they’ll have. It’s a big responsibility to make sure I get it right.”

Meeks said she really wants students to love science.

“I think many times young people are afraid of it, and there’s nothing to be afraid of,” she said. “It’s the most interesting thing on the planet.”

Despite her interest in the subjects she teaches, Meeks said she did get tired of the repetition at one point.

“Years ago I fell into this monotonous thing where it felt like every year you were unwrapping a Christmas present and then the next year you would have to unwrap it again,” she said. “I got so bored, and I told my principal I was getting bored. Then this thing happened, and I realized it’s not just about teaching the objectives. It’s about teaching the individuals that are in your classroom, and that made all the difference.”

Meeks said she places a high importance on academic integrity, and she encourages students to join some of the teams and organizations she oversees, including quiz bowl, math and science team and National Honor Society. Meeks also does ACT prep courses at the YMCA, and she is the senior adviser at St. Al.

“When I took this job to be senior adviser, I was told that I needed to give up some of my other stuff,” she said. “I told them I really couldn’t do that.”

The best part of being senior adviser is getting to be part of the lives of the students, Meeks said.

“Now not only do I get to see them in the classroom, but I get to help them with their post-graduation plans and college selection,” she said. “We’re doing small groups now talking about where they’ve applied and what they want to do.”

Meeks’ daughter Hannah Meeks also teaches at St. Aloysius, offering courses in English and German.

“It’s a neat thing, and it’s great to see her grow,” she said. “The principal last year said she was going to be much greater than I even was. I hope so. She probably will be.”