Many of us have mixed feelings about our local education systems. On one hand, we have so many passionate teachers, administrators and entrepreneurs who are paving new roads and creating amazing opportunities for students. On the other hand, schools are often underfunded, teachers are underpaid, curriculums are out of date and resources are not equitably distributed.
There are quite a few educational businesses in the hyggesphere such as Digi-Bridge, Do Greater Charlotte and SchermCo, and while they do a fantastic job of improving the educational landscape, nonprofits and small businesses can only do so much.
We recently had the opportunity to sit down with hygge flex member Meaghan Loftus, who works for CT3 Education, another one of those small businesses that are fighting the good fight. CT3 is short for The Center for Transformative Teacher Training. They’re based out of San Francisco but run programs in cities across the nation including NYC, Cleveland, Flint, Dallas, Tulsa and Charlotte.
Their mission is to transform the quality and culture of education for youth, especially those in traditionally disenfranchised communities. They work directly with schools, principals and teachers to implement inclusive and anti-racist practices, while working to dismantle the systemic structures that have historically impeded the academic journeys of disenfranchised youth. They have big goals, and rely on folks like Meaghan who are on the ground, in the classroom, working one-on-one with educational leaders to implement these strategies.
We asked Meaghan a handful of questions about her journey transitioning from a CMS teacher and principal to working for CT3, and how she views the field of education as it currently stands. This goes without saying, but we extend a big “thank you” to Meaghan and everyone else who works in education. You’re heroes and we’re grateful that our youth can depend on you.
What’s your current role and company? How did you get into it?
I am currently an Associate and Lead Partnership Manager for CT3. We support leaders and teachers in transforming schools for kids in traditionally disenfranchised communities. Our company’s core value is anti-racism, and supporting educators in identifying, interrogating and replacing racist practices in schools to ensure equity for 100% of our kids.
Most of my work is in Tulsa, Indianapolis and here in Charlotte, where I coach principals in making aligned leader moves and reflecting on their own mindsets and behaviors to meet their goals for kids. On a given day, I’m walking classrooms and supporting quality feedback, building a professional development experience for staff, scripting and practicing critical conversations, or engaging in problems of practice with which the leader is feeling stuck or in the weeds. I love how the work changes school to school; each day is completely different from the next.
Prior to joining this team, I was a corps member with Teach For America (TFA) and worked in CMS for 11 years. I was a facilitator, assistant principal and principal at Ashley Park PreK-8 School, and contracted with an associate at CT3 to support my own leadership mindset and behaviors. Making the transition from principal to CT3 was bittersweet for me; I’m so grateful that communities like Hygge exist to keep me connected to all the amazing partners who supported the work at Ashley Park. We partnered with SchermCo to better reach and empower our families, and DigiBridge to provide STEAM Saturdays for our kids. Garrett was also amazing in giving me and my leadership team workspace at the Remount Location. Thus, coworking here now feels extra special to me!
You’ve worked in education in a lot of different roles for a while now. What drew you to this career? What makes you passionate about it?
I had a study abroad experience in college and was placed at a school who served students with intensive special needs in Sydney, Australia. I was enamored with the school culture and the kids; the teachers were true magic to me. That was more than enough to get me interested in programs that could get me certified to teach given I hadn’t majored in education; TFA provided that for me.
At the start of my career, I taught a group of students with learning disabilities in a self-contained setting and looped with them for two years. After plenty of trial and error, I realized I could support big growth for my kids by creating engaging lessons, building meaningful relationships with each of them, and holding them to the highest expectation with plenty of scaffolding to meet it. I should note – none of that is easy! But I loved the challenge of it, and I loved watching my kids discover their brilliance. It’s a beautiful thing. When I transitioned to Ashley Park, my passion shifted to creating a school-wide culture that allowed teachers to do those same things and so much more. Being the principal of that school remains the greatest opportunity and privilege of my life.
What do you think is the biggest challenge the NC education system is facing right now?
Nothing novel here: it’s keeping teachers in the profession. The teachers at Ashley Park were truly some of the most talented I’ve seen. Yet given the salary and the grind we must demand for kids, the turnover persists. Our teachers don’t have adequate time and resources, and we rely on their passion to serve as enough motivation to sustain them over time.
Every kid deserves a teacher who cares about them deeply and insists on the highest expectation – and every teacher deserves support, resources and coaching to make that happen. Increased salary and more leadership pathways within a school are critical – and so is the status we assign to teachers in our community. They are superheroes – and we should acknowledge them, pay them and support them as such.
What can the average person do to better support their local school system?
Great question! When I led Ashley Park and was asked about this, I always encouraged people to give directly to my teachers. Whether “adopting” a teacher and fulfilling their wishlists, volunteering to make copies, or contributing to our social committee funds, my priority has always been making sure teachers feel appreciated and supported. They are the best resource we have. So in short, ask your school and/or school leader directly.
If people have more capacity, there are so many great programs out there to support weekly tutoring efforts (i.e. HEART Math Tutoring, READ Charlotte). The ability to commit and be consistent for one child is critical, and that impact can be game-changing for the student and the tutor or mentor. Taylor Florio was a consistent and highly impactful mentor at Ashley Park to one of my students, and can definitely attest to this!
And lastly, I always encourage people to simply speak positively about education. When you meet a teacher, thank them for what they do. Ask them what they wish people knew and understood about their work. Listen for and spread the assets of our schools in CMS, and spread the good word. There are so many success stories out there that don’t get told! And language matters.
Working in education can be draining. How do you take care of yourself so you don’t get burnt out?
The work in schools energizes me, but the travel in between can burn me out a bit when I’m not intentional with how I use my down time. I try to take advantage of exploring new places. I’m into trying local coffee and recommended restaurants, and going on runs and finding trails I want to explore. Exercise is always helpful for my balance.
I happen to know you love reading based on past convos – reading anything good right now? Or do you have a book you’ve read recently that you’d recommend?
Oh man. I think we talked when I was on a reading kick, and I’m embarrassed to say I’ve been slacking lately. Still, a recent professional read that I use often in my coaching is Radical Candor (by Kim Scott). For pleasure, I’m in a book club and the most recent read we loved and discussed was Olga Dies Dreaming (by Xochitl Gonzalez). Highly recommend!
What’s your favorite thing about Charlotte?
The people! I am so thankful for the network of friends and colleagues I’ve been fortunate enough to find here over the last 14 years. And my absolute favorite thing is running into my former students ☺