Moore Elementary – Merry Lahti, 4th Grade
Fourth grade teacher Merry Lahti has been named the 2019-2020 Teacher of the Year for Moore Elementary School.
“I think I have always been a teacher,” Lahti said. “I began by teaching my dolls and my younger brother and sister and went on to add neighborhood friends to the “school’ on our front porch. I grew up in the in-between generation, before college was pretty much a given. I would have been a perfect candidate to be the kind of teacher Laura Ingalls was – getting my credentials by passing a series of questions from a school superintendent. Going to college could have been impossible except my grandmother passed away the week of my high school graduation. My mother received a very small inheritance that basically paid for my first year at community college. The rest was paid by student loans which by today’s standards were quite small. I thought it was the greatest thing in the world when I began my first job – teaching kindergarten – and getting paid to do it!”
Lahti enjoys teaching most subjects.
“Once upon a time I would have said math or social studies was my favorite. I still absolutely love teaching social studies,” she said. “I did not enjoy history as a student, either in high school or college, but as an adult, I discovered a love for the stories in history and remember vividly my first ‘aha’ of enjoyment. I refuse to let history or geography be the boring subject I always thought it was.
“Six years ago I changed schools and stepped into teaching writing to four sections of fourth graders each day. Before, I never would have said that I love, or even like teaching writing. That, however, has changed. I am able to give 50 to 55 minutes per class each day to my writers. We have time to listen to books which can mentor us as writers and which can build our vocabularies. My students hear me say ‘I love words’ over and over as we notice how words with similar parts also have related meanings. We have time to build background knowledge before we write. We have time to focus on mentor texts as lessons in what writers do to describe, write dialogue, and use those pesky parts of speech. I love watching my writers grow over the year. The growth is always amazing!”
Lahti began as a substitute teacher for Union in 1992.
“My children, Amanda and Andrew were students at Grove Elementary,” Lahti said. “I preferred substituting so that I could still be a mom after school hours without worrying about the after-hours responsibilities of a full-time teacher. In that time I taught several long-term jobs, including a full year for someone who took a leave of absence. When my son was a senior at Union, his former teacher, then a principal, offered me a full-time position teaching fifth grade at McAuliffe. That was December 1999. I was at McAuliffe for 14 years before moving to Moore six years ago.”
Lahti said, “I was the first in my family to go to college, though several attended some other sort of post-high school training. Because funds were limited, I lived at home and attended a community college 20 miles from home for 2 and a half years, taking the maximum 70 yours of credit into Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. I received my Bachelor of Science degree with Early Childhood and Reading specialties in 1975. At the time Texas did not require any testing to earn a teaching certificate. Even though I ‘retired’ from teaching in Texas upon the birth of my daughter in 1980, I took the now required test to keep my Texas certification, not knowing when I might decide to use it.
“Though I never received other degrees, I took the nine hours needed to qualify for Oklahoma certification in 1992, mainly so that I could substitute as many days as I wanted while my children were still in school. Since that time, it is through reading professional texts and working with my peers that I continue to grow as an educator.”