By SUMERLYN YUDELL, Vandegrift Voice
Math teacher Mike Meadows came out of his classroom expecting to speak with head athletic director Drew Sanders about some of his athletes. Little did Meadows know he would be greeted in the hall by a cheering Vandegrift football team there to give him the “Change Our School” award.
The football leadership council and coaches give the award out in late October to a chosen teacher who exemplifies great qualities and truly makes the school a better place.
“This surprise totally threw me off,” Meadows said. “There are four or five moments are like this, that stand out. Every once in a while, something comes along that is unexpected and I think that’s what makes this so special.”
Sanders created the “Change Our School” award last year with the football program in order to recognize teachers and staff who deserved recognition for all they do for Vandegrift.
“We wanted to choose someone who challenges kids, works hard and at the same time connects with the kids,” Sanders said. “He’s a shining example of the great things that happen in our school.”
The team presented Meadows with a plaque, a bag of candy corn, a gift certificate to a restaurant and a pair of sneakers that he loved.
“We don’t do anything super outlandish for the award, but we try to get them a nice little gift,” Sanders said. “Mainly just to recognize the teacher and tell them we appreciate them.”
There were three or four teachers that were in the running for the award. While deciding the winner, the boys on the leadership council were persistent in talking about how Meadows always made time for his students. Two of the varsity captains, seniors Drew Nelson and Davis Beal, spoke and presented Meadows with the award.
“This award shows that he’s a teacher out there that cares more for the students, rather than just completing his job,” Nelson said. “He teaches for the students, not for the job itself.”
All the boys were extremely enthusiastic about Meadows receiving the award. Most of the team had a personal connection to Meadows, as Meadows makes a personal connection with all his students, according to Nelson.
“That really stands out from another teachers, and I really appreciate it,” Nelson said. “I had Mr. Meadows my sophomore year for Algebra 2. What stood out to me about Mr. Meadows that most teachers don’t do, is he does have that personal connection with each and every student which really helps me and others learn his material better.”
Meadows, who has been teaching at the school since 2011, has taught at other schools where there is not as much involvement from students, making teaching more difficult. But at Vandegrift, with such high standards, student involvement becomes the norm.
“The kids at Vandegrift exemplify the ‘Second to None’ motto so much here,” Meadows said. “There are so many kids that reach above and beyond just to set the standard for everyone else. Being a part of the community and everything we have here really means a lot.”
The “Second to None” tradition is modeled after our school’s namesake, Lieutenant Matthew R. Vandegrift, who, according to his parents, represented “loyalty, honor, bravery and determination.”