The principal knew best.
Meghann Latimer heeded the advice of her then boss, Donald Stewart, by enrolling in the Lamar University Master of Education in Teacher Leadership with a Specialization in Gifted and Talented online program.
“He kept pushing me and telling me, ‘You’re an excellent teacher, and I know that you are going to go far. You need to get a master’s degree,'” she said. “I did it because Donald Stewart told me to do it. He’s a smart guy and a phenomenal person. Inside and out, he is a phenomenal educator and a phenomenal leader.”
Stewart spoke from experience after earning an online education degree from Lamar University.
“Donald told me how great the program was, how easy the online portion is to manage and how it would fit my schedule,” Latimer said. “He told me how I could be done in 18 months, which was also a plus because I have 7-year-old twins [Ava and Korbyn]. I knew that I was going to have to do something fast and affordable.”
Latimer, the language arts and reading department chair at the Judson Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (JSTEM) Academy at Judson ISD, near San Antonio, graduated from the online M.Ed. program in February 2018.
“I got up at 4 in the morning every day for 18 months and did an hour of schoolwork,” she said. “I was able to manage it because I got a good, solid hour in before my day started. I could still be a mom and a teacher and do school.”
Answering the Calling
Becoming a teacher was a no-brainer for Latimer, who grew up in Illinois just east of St. Louis, Missouri. Her mother, Pam Connors, was a preschool teacher.
“I have a Type A personality,” Latimer said. “I like things to go my way, and I like to be in charge. I thought that teaching was a way that I could make the most impact and still be my own person. Even with my current school, I pretty much have autonomy on what I can do and how I do it because I have really good test scores.”
Latimer graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville in 2002. The pilot program allowed her to gain real-world experience as a student teacher during her junior and senior years. She added a supplemental degree in middle school education from Greenville College two years later.
“I started out in Illinois as a response-to-intervention reading coach,” Latimer said. “I did that for a few years, and then I became an assistant director at Sylvan Learning Center and wrote curriculums for a few years. I went back into teaching when I moved to Texas.”
Latimer and her husband, Mark, relocated to the San Antonio area in 2007. He works in anti-terrorism for the U.S. Air Force and serves in the National Guard.
“He was a cop and kept getting deployed,” she said. “After the fourth deployment, I said, ‘This is not what I signed up for.’ He said, ‘If you find a job that can sustain us, I’ll go back to school. I’ll get out of the military and go guard.’ I said, ‘Sold.’ Instead, he went to the officer side after he got a bachelor’s degree.”
Latimer taught third grade for four years, second grade for one year and seventh grade English for four years at Judson ISD before moving over to the JSTEM Academy in 2016 and enrolling at Lamar University.
“My husband was super supportive,” she said. “I didn’t tell a lot of people about going back to school. I told my team, because I needed them to help me with different assignments and other things. We’re a 100 percent Makerspace Education and project-based learning school. We only accept 125 students throughout the district to be part of our program.”
With the M.Ed. in Teacher Leadership with a Specialization in Gifted and Talented Education degree, Latimer hopes to teach at an upper-level early college school or teach gifted and talented students within her district.
“Lamar University gave me an opportunity to do an emphasis in gifted and talented education to broaden my horizons,” she said. “I liked all of the gifted and talented courses. Student Expectations & Motivation [PEDG 5373] was neat because I got to go into the psychology of why gifted children do what they do.
“Schools as Learning Communities [PEDG 5327] was also neat because I got to see how different cultures use education differently, how they see education and where they put their emphasis on who is in charge of education. That was very eye-opening for me. I’m big into finding out why kids do what they do and why and how I can help them.”
Another benefit of Latimer’s return to higher education involved setting an example for her kids.
“We’ve been talking about college as an option,” she said. “I want them to do whatever they’re happy with, but we talk about, ‘What do you want to do when you grow up? Where do you want to go to school? Education is important.’ Being a teacher, I see what’s coming down the pike. I’m a very big advocate of education and keeping it together.”
Whichever direction Latimer’s career goes, she is glad that Stewart, who is now an assistant superintendent at Natalia ISD, coaxed her to earn a master’s degree.
“He’s probably one of the top two or three people that have impacted my life — he and my current principal, who was my assistant principal at the time, Dawn Worley,” Latimer said. “She pushes me and is awesome, too. She was very helpful in the process.”
Following Stewart’s lead, Latimer won’t hesitate to urge a teacher with leadership potential to enroll in a Lamar University online M.Ed. program.
“I would tell them that it sounds daunting at first, but if you carve out time and give yourself a chance to open your mind and broaden your horizons, the online M.Ed. at Lamar can be beneficial for you, emotionally and financially,” she said. “I got everything that I was hoping for out of the program.”