People say it all the time — they have the most rewarding job in the world. Generally, it can be difficult to take some people at their word.
But, now and then, someone has so much passion and fire for their job that it is clear they are truly fulfilled by their work. Erik Meerschaert is one of those people, and in late January he was recognized for his work and his passion in receiving the Michigan Lottery’s Excellence in Education Award.
Erik graduated from Western Michigan University in 2009 with a degree in special education, and has been teaching through Eaton RESA (Regional Education Service Agency) for the last eight years. Erik decided to pursue teaching special education because he struggled with his own learning disabilities as a child.
“I couldn’t read in second grade,” he said. “It took a lot of support from teachers and my parents to push me forward.”
Erik said that he takes the same method of parent to teacher reinforcement to his own students. He is committed to ensuring that all of his students have the services necessary for the most effective learning experience possible. If students have something at home that makes them a more comfortable, effective learner then he wants to incorporate that into the classroom. If he discovers something in the classroom that helps a student to learn better, then he wants to share that with the parents.
It’s this commitment to his students and their success that got Erik nominated for the Excellence in Education award through the Michigan Lottery. Erik was completely unaware that he was nominated until he received a phone call informing him that’d he’d won. Thirty-five teachers from across the state are selected, and each teacher is featured as the student of the week. When the teacher’s week comes they receive a $500 grant for their classroom, a $500 check for their personal use, and they are featured on a segment with FOX 47 News.
Tom Izzo was present when Erik was given his checks, and for a few minutes Erik and Izzo discussed education and the importance of commitment to one’s work.
Erik has looked at a number of options for how to spend the $500 he received specifically for his classroom. Currently he is looking at the possibility of virtual reality headsets, the technology for which has advanced significantly in the last few years. With such technology Erik’s students, especially those who are physically impaired, would be able to experience a wide range of tasks they wouldn’t ordinarily be able to appreciate. With the $500 Erik personally received, he thinks for right now he’ll place the money in the bank and possibly plan a family trip in the future. Along with the $1,000 from the initial award, the 35 teachers selected are automatically placed in a drawing for a $10,000 prize. The winner will be selected when all 35 teachers have been recognized.
For many doing the work itself is rewarding enough. But every once and a while the recognition of passion in the work can be rewarding as well.
RESA Teacher