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Thurston Middle School math teacher wins grant for going the Extra Yard

Seventh grade Thurston Middle School math teacher Megan McFarland was chosen to be honored at halftime of an Oregon football game by the Extra Yard for Teachers initiative on September 17th. During the presentation, which included three other Oregon teachers, McFarland was given a $1,643.85 grant to use at her school.


After being nominated by her husband because of all of the time she spends in the evenings and weekends preparing lesson plans and materials for her students, she wasn’t sure she was worthy compared to other teachers.


“I really didn’t expect that I would be a top candidate, let alone one of the winners,” McFarland said.


McFarland’s students know why she won.


When Eighth grade Thurston Middle School student Baylin Prieto was asked to describe Mrs. McFarland in a word, she replied, “Extraordinary! She is really amazing and one of the teachers I will always remember.”


“She catches on quickly with how each student learns so she can help them,” seventh-grade Thurston Middle School student Aaron Quiroz said.


McFarland comes from a family of teachers and knew she wanted to be a teacher when she was in the first grade. It wasn’t until high school that she decided to teach math.


“I had a geometry teacher who explained things so easily and made me feel so confident,” McFarland said. “This is the kind of teacher I want to be.”


Her students believe she has become that teacher.


“Her teaching style is so amazing. Everything she teaches is so straightforward,” Baylin said.


“She makes me feel more confident,” Quiroz added.


She also believes it takes more than just teaching the subject to make kids successful.


McFarland said, “I try to develop emotional connections and relationships with all of my students in all of their different interests, so even if they don’t feel confident in their math skills, they feel confident in our relationship and confident in this environment.”


Award Presentation


McFarland shared that it was really nerve-wracking at first because she came into the stadium with just her family member and didn’t know how the whole experience would play out. Then, she met the other winners.


I talked to them about their experiences, and heard about their schools and their roles,” McFarland said. “It helped validate my nomination because there are so many great teachers and I didn’t feel like I deserved it.”


How to spend the money


It is difficult deciding where to spend the reward. McFarland says she is doing a lot of research before she makes her decision.


“I want to be very intentional about how I use the funds because it is such a great honor and reward, and I want to use it appropriately,” McFarland said.


She does have a couple of ideas. One is to bring technology into the classroom.


There are specific tablets that help with math connections and can work out and model different math strategies.


Another idea is possibly starting an after-school club. Something that involves the community and benefits everyone. She is looking into a cooking club because it creates a social opportunity, not just an academic opportunity.


No matter what she decides to do with the money, she wants it to be a tool for years.


McFarland said, “I want this award to last my whole career, not just this year.”