Media provided by Alejandro Izurieta ’25
A person who spends almost half a century educating students and sparking passions in young minds sounds too good to be true. Yet that inspiring hero is real and among us at Grace – Margaret Meyer.
After teaching for an astounding 47 years at Grace Church School, Ms. Meyer has become a fixture in the community. Ms. Meyer has contributed so much to Grace, including serving as a 5th grade advisor and teaching both history and English classes for the 5th grade. Whether someone attended the middle school or not, they have likely felt Ms. Meyer’s impact on life at Grace. Her retirement is the end of a magical era.
Ms. Meyer originally started teaching at a few schools in Chicago but was only there for three to four years. After that, she remembers walking down 10th Street in New York and seeing children playing in the middle school yard, wearing the “exact same uniform that I wore when I was a kid.”
That sight prompted Ms. Meyer to go in the front door and sign up for the substitute teacher list. The very next morning, Ms. Meyer was called in as a substitute teacher and was eventually hired as a permanent teacher. She taught 3rd grade for a couple of years, then spent a few years as the reading specialist before eventually assuming the position she held the longest, a 5th grade teacher. Ms. Meyer has taught history and English since she began teaching the 5th grade. This school year, however, she is only teaching history because of a change in faculty structure.
Ms. Meyer has loved teaching at Grace: “Grace was a great fit for me and I was a great fit for Grace. It was magic.”
Grace has grown tremendously in size, but Ms. Meyer pointed out the constant, saying, “My students remain wonderful. Every year I love my students. They’re always different. Every year is so different because the cast of characters is so different. The kids are different, their parents are different, the society we all live in is different, so it’s a different experience every single time.”
Ms. Meyer flows and adapts with every change, as she enjoys “doing things differently every year.”
For example, this year Ms. Meyer is teaching “strictly on a research model.” She described how “we do everything by discovery and by research.”
Two beloved traditions of the 5th grade curriculum are Renaissance Day and Medieval Day, where students research various topics in a certain time period and present them. Ms. Meyer teaches about the histories of countries all over the world, and students are able to pick a specific country to focus on for their projects. Ms. Meyer continued, “Every day, kids have a different area to research.”
Ms. Meyer’s students will also always remember her famous pet wall, where everyone was encouraged to print out pictures of their pets or other cute animals for her classroom windows. As Ms. Meyer said, “There’s no view anyway and it’s so nice, on a really horrible day, to look up and see your pet.” The pet wall is a perfect example of how Ms. Meyer creates an environment of joy and positivity.
While she has thought about retiring, Ms. Meyer is still not sure exactly what she wants to do next: “I don’t want to be a retired person who stays home and plays bridge and goes out to lunch,” she says. “I would love to have a part-time job of some sort, like a volunteer job. … I have a lot of input from a lot of people, but it’s going to be difficult.”
Ms. Meyer will miss teaching at Grace and has adored her time here. “I’m going to miss a couple of things: the amazing, amazing, really amazing families. The families at Grace are fascinating because they’re very different from each other.”
Ms. Meyer likes how, “You’re who you are, your friends are each who they are, your families are each who they are; I love it. They are all equally fascinating, and we’re all very different from each other. We respect and honor each other for that. And I’m going to miss that a lot.”
Ms. Meyer remarked that, “Grace is unique in that we respect and honor each other’s individuality, as opposed to trying to make people fit into a specific way.”
Ms. Meyer has been an inspiration to many students, and many will look back happily on their experiences in her class. She has been a kind and comforting soul to turn to for advice, daily conversations, help with school, and so much more. She has also instilled a passion for humanities subjects in many of her past students. Her students will always remember her inspiring stories, dedication to her classes, and great sense of humor.
Annabel S. ‘25 said that she “remembered [Ms. Meyer] telling us the story of dealing with the education system … and the general sexism of the era.” Annabel felt “so supported by her story. I remember how she promoted confidence in girls […] and she would make sure that the girls always had a voice in the classroom. I wouldn’t be as confident as I am now if I hadn’t had her as a teacher.”
Ronan K. ‘25 explained how “I thought that she was always kind and interested in the development of the children she was teaching.” Ronan also fondly remembered Ms. Meyer “preparing for our 5th grade English class by drinking the lemon juice and water she had every day.”
Another former student of Ms. Meyer’s, Tess G. who now attends The Chapin School, mentioned, “My favorite memory of Ms. Meyer is whenever the phone would ring during class she would say ‘I’ll get it’ and always had a positive attitude about everything and would help out any student or person in need.”
When you think of everything a teacher should be, you think of Ms. Meyer. She is dedicated, kind, patient, intelligent, and an overall amazing person. Ms. Meyer has given countless students an interest in the world around them. She provided them with the skills to become better writers and historians. Ms. Meyer will leave a lasting legacy at Grace Church School that will never be forgotten. She may be leaving the grounds, but her contributions to the school and to the hundreds of children and families she has touched will always remain.
Nate Barkow, ‘25, the author, is a staff writer for The Gazette. Ms. Meyer was Nate’s 5th Grade English and history teacher.