“The entire community is so thrilled to have Megan on board as our new Lower School Division Head,” said Head of School Diane Rosenberg. “Her deep sense of empathy for all members of our community — parents, students, and faculty — with her innate ability to foster productive conversation will serve as the heart of life and learning in the Lower School. Megan is the embodiment of our ‘learn by doing, learn by caring’ approach to childhood and education as she continually explores and creates dialogue around best practices in the classroom.”
Drawn to Nueva’s culture of intellectual curiosity and kindness, Megan Terra joined the school in 2009 as a first-grade teacher. In 2012, she stepped into a leadership role, directing the Innovative Teacher Program. As director, Megan expanded the program across the three divisions, supporting associate teachers to develop student-centered, innovative teaching practices. She has served as a Nueva Parent Association faculty liaison, an Innovative Learning Conference committee member, a co-director of the Design Thinking Institute, and an annual presenter at the Institute for Social-Emotional Learning. Before coming to Nueva, Megan taught preK–sixth grades, designed gifted programming, and co-directed a lower school social-emotional learning program. She holds a master’s degree in teaching and is completing a second master’s degree in educational leadership. Megan is thrilled to support students, parents, and teachers in her new role as the Lower School Division Head.
1. What are you most excited about in your new official role as Lower School Head?
I’m most excited to continue to work in partnership with teachers, parents, and students to support our vibrant learning community. Over the last few weeks, teachers have come to me to share exciting new ideas about curriculum they want to develop; parents have volunteered their time and shared their expertise; and students have launched and dreamed up all kinds of wonderful initiatives that they are ready to lead (get ready for the lower school Kindness March!). I learn every day in this role and am inspired by our incredible teachers, dedicated staff, engaged parents, and unbelievable students.
I’m also excited to get to know our community better. I’m grateful for those who have sought me out to share their feedback and questions, or to simply share more about themselves. I hope that in the semester ahead and beyond, I’ll have even more parents knocking on my door to offer their thoughts, share stories about their children, or simply say hello.
2. What is you most vivid memory from your own time in elementary school?
The first memory that comes to mind captures more of a vivid feeling. I remember when my first-grade teacher went door to door throughout the community (in the wintry cold of Colorado!) to collect box tops so we could earn our first classroom computer. I remember feeling that this was one of many examples that Mrs. Denham would do anything for us. She was kind, sincerely interested in our thinking, and creative about finding ways to help us stretch as learners. Even now, when I visit Durango and Mrs. Denham, she always remembers who I am and takes an interest in what I’m learning. Her belief in us was, and is, contagious.
My most vivid academic memories center on extracurricular activities. I was always excited about big projects that ended in culminating exhibitions — invention convention, science fair, odyssey of the mind, and history day. I remember interviewing local nurses and doctors and learning that after a long shift, they didn’t want to scrape the frost and snow off their windshields (this led to a hand-sewn windshield-cover invention). I remember visiting mines to learn the history of our town and recognizing the evolution of current policies from historic ones. I remember tackling creative problem solving challenges and co-authoring theatrical productions. My fondest memories feature opportunities for creativity, authentic research, and making connections to the bigger world. For me, learning was most alive in these projects that happened beyond the school day. I’m so grateful that at Nueva, these types of meaningful learning experiences make up the school day.
3. Is there a particular unit or project you have witnessed this year that you wish you could have participated in as a young student?
One of the most exciting parts of my role is getting to see the full range of interesting and thoughtful projects that take place throughout the year. I would have loved participating in so many of them: the deep exploration of seeds in preK, the kindergarten study of da Vinci, the experimental studies of magnetism and flying machines in science. I would have been thrilled to be in a place where inquiry, collaboration, experimentation, and creativity are the norm.
I also wish my school had the student-initiated projects happening at Nueva, like the journalism club. In elementary school, I was fascinated by Nellie Bly and, like her, I wanted to be a daring investigative journalist. I would have loved having a cohort of peers who pioneered a lower school paper and reported on all the news that’s fit to print.
4. What is your favorite animal, ice cream flavor, or book and why? You choose!
If you ask my family, they will tell you that I have a hard time answering questions about my favorites — I have such a hard time choosing! So, I’ll share a few different picks, and I’ll start with a book that reminds me of Nueva — Roxaboxen by Alice McLerron. For me, this book reminds me of the kind of imagination that comes alive at Nueva, in the classrooms, on the play spaces, and especially in the Forts. I also love listening to Flavia de Luce concoct chemistry experiments and solve mysteries in the audiobook version of Alen Bradley’s The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. The adult book I gave to all of my friends this year was Brian Stevenson’s Just Mercy. He is one of my greatest heroes for his work, his ability to offer sobering insight into our criminal justice system, and his contagious optimism through it all.
(And if I had to choose one ice cream, I’d cheat and go with honey lavender gelato.)
5. What advice do you have for other members of our community who are doing or will do something new this year?
One of the best things about working at Nueva is that we too have permission to be learners — this is actually an essential, ongoing expectation — and it makes for a great way to start! I also recommend that everyone spend at least a little time in the classroom, no matter your role or how long you’ve been at Nueva, to be energized by our students and reminded of the joy of what we do each day. The kids will remind you of all that is most important: be in the moment, have fun, ask for help when needed, and lead with curiosity.
Remember that you are not alone — we are all in it together, and the Nueva community wants you to succeed.
By Dianne Willoughby, Editorial Manager
January 31, 2018