Meghan Michals was nominated by her superintendent, Dr. Blondean Davis.
Ms. Michals is a teacher who is not only changing lives, but someone who students credit with saving their lives. She teaches honors British Literature and AP English and Composition at Southland College Prep Charter High School. Ms. Michals graduated from the University of Illinois with a bachelor’s degree in English and a focus in writing. She earned a master's degree in education at National Louis University. She started teaching at Southland, a non–profit public charter high school which educates primarily African-American students.
“Ms. Michals essentially saved my life," said Angel Jackson, a former student. "My senior year of high school was a super low time for me. Ms. Michals was able to identify that and not only bring me out of that but gave me skills so that I would be able to change the world. That’s how she changed my life.”
All of Southland’s graduates have been accepted by colleges and universities, including seven of the eight Ivy League schools. Students have been offered substantial merit-based scholarships totaling more than $75 million. Ms. Michals is one of the people who has been a great part of student success. Her teaching philosophy is to care about how her students are doing academically, socially, and emotionally. As a certified yoga instructor, Ms. Michals sponsors the school yoga club, which meets once a week and works with students to help them with challenges, such as emotional regulation, behavior interventions, stress management, and conflict resolution. She is a master teacher who makes literature come alive for her students at Southland. Most importantly, she cares about the lives of her students.
“She is not only a master teacher—she always has high energy, creative, higher level thinking lessons—but she connects to our students on a human level," said Sherry Grutzius, a colleague. "They gravitate to her kind nature. She has helped numerous students through the rough spots of being a teenager. Not only is Ms. Michals making an impact on students at Southland, she is also helping to shape the curriculum at the local elementary schools."
Ms. Michals and Mrs. Grutzius applied for and were awarded a grant to share Southland’s college-ready writing program “Writing Your Future,” with the local elementary school district and other Illinois and U.S. school districts. Students credit her with preparing them for writing in college and even changing their lives in general.
Christian Davis, a co-valedictorian of Southland’s Class of 2016, said Ms. Michals helped him through a particularly difficult time personally during his senior year when he had a hard time even completing college applications. When he graduated, Davis was accepted by 36 colleges and universities, including Harvard. He attends Stanford University, where he is majoring in engineering.
“She was one of the few people who I could talk to,” Davis said. “If she wasn’t there I wouldn’t be at Stanford. She helped me understand why I was doing what I was doing and helped me find new reasons and a driving force.”
"Meghan Michals is an educational visionary whose positive energy is contagious," Dr. Blondean Davis said. "She is a master teacher who makes literature come alive and prepares students for college. She is a leader who exemplifies excellence. She is a teacher who cares. She is definitely a LifeChanger who is making a difference in the lives of students."