Meg O’Donnell ’88

Major: History

What do you do know?

I am a proud middle school teacher, and have been teaching this age group for over 25 years at Shelburne Community School in Shelburne, VT. The majority of my teaching career has been as a generalist, integrating problem solving, critical thinking and communication skills across multiple disciplines. I currently teach humanities to seventh and eighth graders.

How did your academic experience at Saint Michael’s College help prepare you for your career?

I attribute my passion of lifelong learning to the liberal arts education I received at St. Michael’s College. I was an “undeclared” major for a while, as I dabbled in Business Administration and English before finding my way to and falling in love with History. I believe without that opportunity to explore different fields I might not have developed an affinity for the process of learning, of figuring out what feels relevant and meaningful and taking deep dives into an area of focus. That idea of exploration, and learning what is enduring and meaningful is absolutely what drives me as an educator. That, of course, and relationships. The meaningful relationships forged at St. Michael’s sustains me to this day. Not just the relationships with friends (I married my best friend Mark Joyce, ’87, and have many close lifelong friends I remain connected to) but the mentoring from professors fostered an important partnership in my learning. I am forever grateful to Norb Kuntz for embodying everything I hope to be as an educator: engaging, compassionate, wise, funny, and humble. He was a gem. He and wife Sue Kuntz, who continues to be an educational mentor of mine, are cherished influences in my life.

What is your favorite memory or class from your time studying at St. Mike’s?

There are so many favorite memories I have from St. Mike’s. Too many to count. I’ll stick to recounting the academic ones, like when I was running late to class (a repeating theme in my life) and attempted to sneak in to the back of the lecture hall only to get called out by Norb Kuntz in front of the entire class. Busted. He was eating an apple and had just come in from his run, in essence saying, if I can get here on time, so can you. I appreciated his humor and the clarity of his standards. I also remember sitting in a freshman English class with Will Marquess where he recited a poem that sticks with me today. His unique humor and style, and most importantly his words, made him someone you wanted to listen to. His recent passing was such a loss; his books hold a special place in our house. And I have fond memories of my French immersion class with Professor Ferdinand, and experiencing the Winter Carnival in Quebec City with several other immersion students. It was a cultural exchange I will never forget, and when I can, I try to practice my very rusty French.

Is there any other information you would like to share? Advice for incoming or current students, etc.?

I feel doubly blessed, as I continue to be connected to St. Michael’s College through my professional relationship with the education department. I am part of the Middle Grades Collaborative of Vermont, a collaborative of higher-ed institutions and practitioners, who focus on providing professional development for middle school educators. I also have the good fortune to mentor undergraduate and graduate education students. The St. Michael’s students I have mentored over the years are exceptional educators; they bring enthusiasm, resilience and humor to the classroom. Having student interns infuses energy and new ideas into the classroom and into my practice. My students benefit from their ideas, compassion and perspective. I have watched these interns go off and embark on their educational teaching journeys, further spreading the benefits of an excellent education to young minds.