Posted Feb. 1, 2022 — As a tutor, teacher, nonprofit director and college instructor, Meg Eubank has helped nearly 4,000 students from over 100 countries learn English.
“I feel like I learn just as much from my students as they learn from me,” said Eubank, who’s currently a student herself in the professional leadership Ed.D. program at the University of Houston College of Education.
The experienced educator recently drew global recognition for her outstanding service as a teacher of English as a second language. Eubank has won the 2022 Teacher of the Year Award from the TESOL International Association, in partnership with National Geographic Learning.
“I’m really excited and honored,” Eubank said. “It really is like a buoy picking me up during the pandemic.”
Associate Professor Laveria Hutchison, who leads the College’s Ed.D. literacy specialization, describes Eubank as a thoughtful, creative student and a caring professional. She praised her “intensive investigation of practices that assist English learners and other marginalized learners in acquiring effective literacy skills that will assist them in becoming lifelong learners.”
Eubank currently works as an instructor at Bucks County Community College in Pennsylvania. She previously led Welcoming the Stranger, a nonprofit that offers community classes to immigrants and refugees who want to learn English. Over the pandemic, she instructed ESL students at a private school.
“With ESL students, you’re working with people from all different cultures, so there are times where I feel I’ve traveled the world without ever leaving the room,” she said.
Through her online Ed.D. program in the College of Education, Eubank said she’s become a better teacher.
“UH is not one of those programs where I’m just sitting there thinking, ‘I’ll never use this,’” she said. “Everything is useful for me. I’m taking what I’ve done at UH and applying it to what I’m doing at work.”
Learn more about Eubank in the Q&A below:
What is your teaching philosophy?
A good teacher teaches with a wide variety of methods, teaches relevant materials, fosters engagement and interest in the class, gets to know everyone, tries to meet the students where they are and challenges them in an appropriate way.
How are you unique as a teacher?
I try to let the students know that I’m human too. I let them know about my experiences, what I’ve learned, the mistakes I’ve made. I try to have an open-door policy where they can connect to me at any time. I want them to approach me if they’re hitting any barriers, whether it’s something physical like having trouble with their internet to feeling depressed because of the pandemic. I try to follow up with students if they miss class. I’m there as a support.
What do you hope to achieve as a teacher?
My goals are for my students to succeed and feel that, after they leave my class, they have the tools they can take and move forward with, whether it’s an ESL class that’s teaching conversational English or a reading class. I want them to believe in themselves.
Why did you decide to attend UH?
I was looking for a small program where you can get individualized attention and mentorship. Dr. Hutchison met with me when there was the deep freeze and power was out for days [in Texas], even though I know life was probably in shambles for her. I was very impressed by the depth and breadth of her experiences, and the opportunities that this program would provide. So that’s why I chose UH out of all the schools across the country.
What has your time at UH been like?
We have this nice tight cohort. If somebody brings something up in class, another person [says], “Oh, I just came across an article about that,” [and] shares it. There’s no competitive nature; it’s very collaborative.
All the professors have been extremely knowledgeable and willing to spend a lot of time with us. I’ve been really impressed by Dr. Jane Cooper, who has been overly generous with her office hours. She actually says to us, “I haven’t seen you in office hours for a while; you better come visit me,” because she wants to check up on everybody.
How has the pandemic affected your work?
The pandemic’s made things more complicated because of the million extra steps everything needs, especially when you’re conducting classes virtually. In some ways, it provides opportunities that face-to-face classes don’t provide. For example, with Zoom, I use the chat box a lot, so it’s easy to have students answer me all at once. I couldn’t do a poll like that quickly in a regular classroom if I went around and asked everybody’s opinion. I also allow students to ask me questions by direct messages. Everybody can benefit because I can share what they’ve asked anonymously if they are too shy to ask in front of the entire class.
What do you do to unwind after a long day?
I’m really into photography. During the pandemic, I did a lot of photography in my home — self-portraits, even taking pictures of mannequin heads because I didn’t have real models. I’ve been doing a lot of digital photography, and that’s my nice stress relief. I set aside everything else, take a couple hours and work on some artistic and visual art that gives my brain a break.
What are you looking forward to most, post-pandemic?
I would love to just see everybody again, so that’s what I’m really looking forward to, just being able to get together with people with no fear and no worry.
—By Lillian Hoang
—Photo courtesy of Meg Eubank