Growing up, Columbus East special education teacher Peggy Myers knew several individuals with disabilities, which sparked an interest in the field for her.
Myers went on to work at various camps for people with disabilities, special needs and health issues and earned her bachelor of science degree in special education from Ball State University.
Now, years later, she has inspired a former East student to pursue the same major at Ball State — and, to her surprise, nominate Myers for the Edna V. Folger Outstanding Teacher Award.
Myers, named the 2021 recipient, is receiving the award from the Center for Teaching and Leadership at IUPUC, the Community Education Coalition and SIHO. According to a release from IUPUC, this honor is designed to raise awareness about the “immeasurable influence” educators have on students.
Myers has been teaching in special education for almost 30 years. She taught for two years at Columbus North, where she worked with students with multiple disabilities.
Then she transferred to East, where she has worked with students with cognitive disabilities. Myers has been a special education teacher at East for 27 years. She teaches courses in a variety of subjects, including math, science, social studies and practical skills for life. She has also been involved in many extracurricular and community activities that promote inclusion for individuals with disabilities.
“The best part of the job is working with the students and seeing them achieve their own personal goals …,” Myers said. “And working with the families. I have amazing families to work with.”
She also enjoys one of the most challenging parts of her job — figuring out the right plan and supports to help students make gains in areas that are difficult for them.
Myers looks for the “root cause of the challenge” for both the student and their educators, she said.
“I think if the student isn’t achieving, it’s not something the student is doing wrong,” she said. “I think it’s something that we’re not seeing and we’re not providing.”
Myers also stressed the importance of imparting life skills and promoting inclusion.
“Every student has a right to be included in their school, included in their community,” she said. “And we do that first, and then we look at, if it’s not successful, if it’s not meeting the goal of high expectations and of growth, then we look at, OK, what do we need to change to make that happen? Or is that service better provided in a separate classroom?”
Every student can be successful and meet high expectations, she said, if given the right supports.
Myers’ commitment to designing individual plans for each student was noted in the award announcement, as well as her advocacy for students, patience, creative approaches to teaching life skills and work in the community.
“Myers is a warm individual, who gives selflessly of her time and resources,” according to the award announcement. “She has a passion for serving others with a humble, servant heart.”
Myers said that she was “stunned and humbly honored” to receive the award. She was surprised with the news during a special presentation at East, after being invited by Principal Mark Newell into the library for a planning meeting.
However, in some ways the work itself is also the reward, she said.
“I absolutely love my job,” Myers said. “Even on the hardest days, it brings me joy.”
About Peggy Myers
City of residence: Columbus
Education: Bachelor of science in special education from Ball State University. Graduate studies at IU, IUPUI and Purdue Global.
Career overview: Was a special education teacher at Columbus North for two years, then transferred to East, where she has been for 27 years.
School involvement: Sponsor for both Best Buddies and Champions Together at East, Columbus East Unified Track Coach.
Classroom initiatives: Cultivating Futures (inclusive school garden to serve the school and Columbus community), Columbus East coffee cart (teaches social and employment skills) and CEHS Players, an inclusive improv group.
Honors and awards: Stone Belt Educator of the Year, The Arc of Bartholomew County President’s Award, Victory Against Hunger Award (bestowed on Cultivating Futures) and Columbus East Teacher of the Year, 2019.
Community and professional involvement: Arc of Bartholomew County (served as president, vice president and secretary in the past). Presents at state and national conferences.
Family: Married to Jay Myers with three children and one grandchild.
About the award
The Edna V. Folger Outstanding Teacher Award is sponsored by the Center for Teaching and Leadership at IUPUC, the Community Education Coalition and SIHO.
According to IUPUC, “Edna Folger set the early standard for teachers. In her honor, Arvin Foundation originally established the award which was designed to raise awareness about the immeasurable influence teachers have on their students and to recognize the image of teachers as important community role models.”
IUPUC stated in its award notice that any full-time elementary or secondary teacher or educator working in a Bartholomew County public, private or parochial school is eligible for the award. Classroom, special education and specials teachers are all eligible, as are certified educators, counselors and administrators.
The award includes a stipend and a personal award from the Center for Teaching and Learning. Furthermore, Myers’ name will be added to a permanent plaque located in the Columbus Learning Center, and she will be recognized as part of the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce annual meeting, which will be held in the fall of 2021.
More information about both Myers and the award is available at iupuc.edu/ctl/folger-award.