When Burrell High graduates return for a visit, they praise the English department, headed by Meghan Nese, for preparing them for the rigors of college writing. Many of them single out Nese, whose passion, caring and high expectations light the way for students and colleagues throughout the Burrell School District in western Pennsylvania.
Nese, a 16-year teaching veteran, is known for putting the person first. She instills confidence even in struggling learners, challenging students out of their comfort zones while supporting their needs. Nese is also known for her openness to new ideas and her real-world, interdisciplinary approach. Collaborating with the social studies department, she spearheaded a ninth-grade “Family Album” project, which has morphed into a presentation about family pride where students eagerly share their source of family pride--from family traditions to family heirlooms. As chairperson of the English department, she encouraged other department members to collaborate as well, which resulted in successful cross-curricular projects: a 10th-grade “Failed States” project, in which students study and write about countries in unrest, and an English-Science endeavor. Last year the English and science departments engaged 12th-graders in Advanced Biology and College Prep English in an exploration of ethics and medicine using the book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” Nese also has created and taught an online course, a summer English credit-recovery course that sparked interaction between students who’d never said a word in class.
A product of a family of educators and a parent of three, Nese knows that educating students has no bounds. She puts in 60-hour workweeks, tutors after school, and attends and helps coordinate extracurricular activities, including those of the Interact Club—a student service group on which she serves as a sponsor. In student/parent conferences, she devotes her time to understanding the parent’s perspective and speaks positively about every student no matter the circumstance.
Thanks in no small part to Nese’s efforts, test scores have improved noticeably: Burrell High has shown marked gains in the SAT’s critical reading and math sections. In 2012, Burrell students had the highest average SAT score in the school’s history. The district, in which Burrell is the only high school, was recognized as one of five in the area that have shown improvement on the SAT in the past six years. In 2011, BHS showed a 95-percent passing rate on the Advanced Placement English 11 and 12 assessments.
Nese imparts her extraordinary work ethic to the many new teachers she has mentored. She was a leader in aligning English and Social Studies to synchronize the teaching of literature and history, making the joint projects possible. She serves on district committees, and has been instrumental in developing a writing sequence for the district. She is a member of the district leadership team. Nese also shares best practices with colleagues at other high schools. In her dedication to the profession and generosity of spirit, Meghan Nese is a role model to all.
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