As this teacher’s career ends, her daughter’s begins

Meredith Ann Calvert practically grew up in her mother’s kindergarten classroom at West Point Elementary School in Cullman County. Lying in her playpen, Meredith Ann soaked it all in as her mom, Anna Calvert, taught a roomful of five-year-olds everything they need to know in life.

By the time she was in first grade, Meredith Ann had decided she wanted to be a teacher like her mother. “She was making lesson plans,” Anna says.

Many of Anna’s teacher friends thought she should discourage her only child from teaching. After all, it’s a career that can take a lot out of a person in terms of time, energy and spirit. It doesn’t pay well, the hours are long, and teachers are often underappreciated.

“But she feels like it’s a calling,” Anna says. “Don’t you want someone in education who wants to be there?”

Like her mother, Meredith Ann very much wants to be there. This past spring, she became a fourth-generation graduate of Athens State University, following in the footsteps of her mother, grandfather and great-grandmother before her, and landed a teaching position at Harmony School, where she’d done her internship.

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Anna, the 2021-22 Cullman County Elementary Teacher of the Year, is in her 35th year of teaching at West Point. It’s the only job she’s ever had, and it’s one she will have mixed emotions about leaving at the end of this school year. “You pour your heart and soul into it,” she says. “It’s almost like your way of life.”

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Her favorite thing about teaching kindergarten is the fact that “they still think at this age that the teacher is ‘it,’” she says. “I spend more hours with these children than the parents do. It can be overwhelming when you think about the influence, good or bad, that you have on these kids.”

Meredith Ann has had plenty of hands-on experience as a substitute and as a P.E. aide at her mom’s school to prepare her for her own classroom – not to mention access to her own lifelong mentor for advice when she needs it.

“I have a good resource in my mom,” says Meredith Ann. She says her mother has imparted the importance of maintaining structure in a kindergarten classroom, and how repetition is key.

Anna says she “got weepy” at her open house when she thought about it being her last year to teach. She also attended Meredith Ann’s open house, where she “sat back and let her do her thing,” she says. And Anna was awed by her daughter’s skills. “She knew exactly what to do.”

Anna fights back tears again as she talks about her daughter starting her own teaching career as Anna’s comes to an end. “When your child makes these accomplishments, you feel it’s as much you as it is them,” she says.

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On the first day of school in August, Anna and Meredith Ann decided to take their own back-to-school photo, with each one holding a sign like their kindergarten students would be doing. Anna’s sign said it was her “last first day of teaching kindergarten,” and her daughter’s said it was her “first day of teaching kindergarten.”

“It was really such a special day,” Anna says.

Anna shared the photo on Facebook and Instagram, and “it just kind of took off,” she says. “I was shocked by how many people shared it. It’s one of those feel-good things.”

Just days before, Meredith Ann got engaged and plans to wed next summer in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming – adding another layer of emotion and planning to this school year.

“I warned our principal,” Anna says, “I might be a hot mess this year.”

https://www.al.com/life/2022/08/as-this-teachers-career-ends-her-daughters-begins.html