By Dan Domsic
For Hamilton Southeastern School District Teacher of the Year Meg Strnat, a classroom is all about facilitation and having students ask questions, not being the person with all the answers.
“(I’m) trying to create an environment where they start deciding how they’re (students) going to do it, rather than thinking that I’m the person that has all the answers,” Strnat said.
Strnat is a fourth-grade teacher at Cumberland Road Elementary School. She teaches a self-contained class that’s part of the district’s REACH program, which is for high-ability students.
While Strnat has been teaching for nine years, it wasn’t her first career path.
She worked in banking, as well as spent time working and volunteering in schools when her kids went through the education system.
She was asked to be an instructional assistant and then, eventually, a science coordinator and teacher.
“I did that for two years, and I fell in love with teaching then,” Strnat said. “I was lucky because it was a hands-on way of teaching.”
Strnat was introduced to an “open-ended” form of teaching and loved it enough to go to Indiana University for a master’s degree in education to go on top of her undergraduate degree in economics and an MBA.
“It’s like I had to do all these other things in life and this is what I was meant to do,” she said, “but I couldn’t skip to what I did to get here.”
While seminars and other teaching opportunities came and went in the banking world, it took inquisitive minds to push Strnat to make up hers.
She said what grabbed her attention was working with young minds that required constant attentiveness and reaction.
Strnat partially credits her success to having an open-ended, yet interconnected classroom that allows students to decide how they want to achieve daily goals.
“I really credit the students because they rise to the challenge every year,” she said. “If they fail, it’s my failing. If they succeed, it’s theirs.”
Strnat also incorporates engineering projects into her curriculum and has outside experts come in for special projects like Lego Mindstorms, a special segment of the popular building blocks that incorporates computer programming.
According to a news release, Strnat is the recipient of several awards during the past five years, including the 2012 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Pre-University Educator Award.