By Starrla Cray
MAYER, MN Patient, fun, and devoted, Kathy Meier is the type of teacher Mayer Lutheran High School (MLHS) is proud to have on its staff.
Meier was recently chosen as one of four high school teachers in the state to receive the Minnesota Private and Independent Education Award.
“She’s awesome,” said MLHS senior Dustin Sievert. “She’s the best teacher I’ve ever had.”
Meier’s main role is helping high school students with special learning needs. About six years ago, MLHS began a partnership with Lutheran Special Education Ministries (LSEM), a program designed to enable those students to receive a high-quality Christian education.
In addition to special education, Meier also teaches a freshman transition English course and a junior/senior consumer math class.
“It’s a math class designed for practical application,” Meier explained. The class helps students learn about buying a home, budgeting, credit cards, and other aspects of personal finance.
Meier was hired at MLHS in 2000, and originally taught math and social studies.
Even before MLHS implemented a special education program, Meier said she always had a heart for helping struggling students.
“I would want to help kids who got frustrated with the math,” she said. “It seems with math, people either hate it or they love it. I think, ‘let me explain it, and maybe you’ll like it a little better.’”
According to Julie Jochum Gartrell, the interim dean for the college of education at Concordia University in St. Paul, Meier puts the needs of her students at the forefront.
Jochum Gartrell nominated Meier for the award based on her determination to help students succeed to the best of their abilities.
“Kathy has an incredible heart for youth at a time in their lives when they are often misunderstood and uncertain about themselves,” Jochum Gartrell wrote in her nomination letter.
Meier has a fun teaching style that helps students enjoy the learning process.
“I try to make a fun environment,” she said. “It’s proven in brain research that those memories associated with strong emotion are going to be solidified.”
Hundreds of Meier’s former students still keep in touch with her through Facebook,
“I just love the students,” Meier said. “Let’s say I’m in kind of a crabby mood in the morning. Then, I get to school, and pretty soon the students just put you in a really great mood. They’re just so full of life and so full of energy. It just rubs off.”
Meier credits her late father, Vic, with instilling in her a love for teaching.
Meier, who grew up in southern Indiana, earned her undergraduate degree in mathematics from Concordia State University in Chicago.
She started her teaching career at a Lutheran school in Michigan in 1979. Before coming to MLHS, Meier also taught seventh and eighth grade at Zion Lutheran School in Mayer for six years.
“I’m celebrating my 20th year of teaching this year,” Meier said, explaining that she took some time off while her children were young.
At MLHS, Meier often works in small group settings. If a student has a disability in written language, for example, Meier can provide structured support for essays and research papers, as well as guidance for composing paragraphs.
“Other students may need organizational help and reminders,” Meier noted.
Meier is more than willing to take the extra time needed to help her students.
“Sometimes, I’m patient to a fault,” she laughed.
Meier has given students rides home, met students before school, and takes phone calls from students who have questions about their assignments.
For Meier, extending her teaching beyond the classroom has been well worth the effort.
“One of the rewarding parts is that ‘aha’ moment,” Meier said. “That’s so exciting. You can just tell on their faces.”
In addition to direct student assistance, Meier also provides faculty members with information and teaching strategies for students with dyslexia, autism spectrum disorders, attention deficit disorder, auditory or cognitive processing disorders, and speech/language impairments.
About three years ago, Meier earned a master’s degree in education in differentiated instruction.
She also coordinates MLHS’s pride and student success program, and serves as chairperson for the mathematics department.
Meier is thankful to be at a school where she can help train the next generation of Christian leaders.
“Being at a Lutheran school, I love being able to talk with the students about their faith life, and to help them through difficult times,” she said.
Meier said she isn’t the only teacher at MLHS who deserves to receive the award.
“We have a whole school full of teachers and faculty members who deserve this, because we all work together as a team,” Meier said. “I teach on a faculty full of fantastic professionals who spend their time gladly in service to our students and their families. We are the fortunate ones who get to spend our time as a ministry team, supporting and encouraging our students as we connect lives to Jesus, our Savior.”
Meier’s husband, Peter, was the pastor at Zion Lutheran Church in Mayer from 1982 to 2005. He currently serves as an assistant for missions through the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod district office in Burnsville.
The couple’s three children, David, Jenny, and Daniel, are all graduates of MLHS.
To learn more about Mayer Lutheran High School, go to www.lhsmayer.mn.org.