Head of the class

Woodland’s Hatch-Geary named Connecticut Teacher of the Year

Woodland Regional High School English teacher Meghan Hatch-Geary walks in the gymnasium with Gov. Ned Lamont, left, and local and state officials before a ceremony honoring her as Connecticut 2020 Teacher of the Year Friday at the school in Beacon Falls. –LUKE MARSHALL

BEACON FALLS — The best day of Meghan Hatch-Geary’s educational career was the day in June 2009 when she was hired as an English teacher at Woodland Regional High School.

That’s now the second best day of her career.

As Hatch-Geary taught her AP English language and composition course Friday morning, Gov. Ned Lamont, Connecticut Commissioner of Education Miguel Cardona and local officials strolled into classroom 203 to give her a message — she is the Connecticut 2020 Teacher of the Year.

“You know here at Woodland Regional High School that you’ve got the best teachers around, but you may not know that you have the very best teacher in Connecticut,” Lamont told the class.

The photographers that made their way into the classroom before the governor might have spoiled the surprise a bit, but it didn’t dim the buzz around the school.

“It’s a proud moment. Mrs. Geary is a phenomenal teacher. I like to think she represents every student in this building, all of her colleagues and the community,” Woodland Principal Kurt Ogren said. “She’s going to do a phenomenal job, she really is. She’s the right person to be Connecticut State Teacher of the Year.”

Hatch-Geary is the first teacher in Region 16, which oversees public schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, to be named teacher of the year for the state.

“The region is so proud of the selection. Megan is a wonderful choice to represent the entire teaching staff here in the region, which we consider to be the best in the state. We consider her to be the best of the best right now,” Board of Education Chairman Robert Hiscox said.

Hatch-Geary, a 41-year-old Hamden resident, has spent her entire education career at Woodland.

“This is my home. The school where I found my true self, my calling, my love, my life,” she said as she addressed students, staff, local officials and dignitaries during a ceremony in the gymnasium.

Hatch-Geary didn’t follow the traditional path to a career in education. After graduating from Maloney High School in Meriden, she studied musical theater at New York University and dreamed of becoming a Broadway star. She went on to earn a degree in black and Latino studies with a minor in English literature from Hunter College, before living abroad in Africa and South America, where she taught and worked on conservation efforts.

Hatch-Geary eventually returned home, earned as master’s degree in education from the University of New Haven, and found her calling in the classroom at Woodland.

Aside from teaching, she is also co-adviser for the Class of 2022 and for Woodland Worldwide, a Woodland-based organization with a mission to advance the rights of women and girls within the community and around the world.

Hatch-Geary said the students give her life purpose.

“What we come here and do every single day brings me more fulfillment and happiness than you (students) will ever know,” she said.

The feeling is mutual.

Woodland senior Emma Flaherty described Hatch-Geary as a phenomenal teacher and a person of great character who genuinely cares for her students and makes them feel accepted.

“Mrs. Geary not only teaches her students, but she’s invested in them,” Flaherty said.

As Connecticut Teacher of the Year, Hatch-Geary will serve as an ambassador for the profession and work together with the state Department of Education in an advisory role. She is also the state’s representative for National Teacher of the Year.

While she was chosen as the top teacher in the state, Hatch-Geary doesn’t think it means she’s the best teacher in Connecticut.

“I think it means that I’ve been deemed the best person at this time to represent the incredible and important things happening in our public schools; to advocate for public education in this state; to fight for opportunities to make us even stronger and to make your future even brighter,” she said.