Meredith Ann Calvert practically grew up in her mother’s kindergarten class at West Point Elementary School in Cullman County. Lying in her playpen, Meredith Ann absorbed it all while her mother, Anna Calvert, taught a roomful of five-year-olds everything they needed to know in life.
By the time she was in first grade, Meredith Ann had decided she wanted to be a teacher like her mother. “She was making lesson plans,” says Anna.
Many of Anna’s teacher friends thought she should discourage her only son from teaching. After all, it is a career that can take up a lot of a person’s time, energy and mind. It doesn’t pay well, the hours are long and the teachers are often underestimated.
“But she feels like it’s a calling,” says Anna. “Don’t you want someone in education who wants to be there?”
Like her mother, Meredith Ann really wants to be there. Last spring, she became a fourth-generation graduate of Athens State University, following in the footsteps of her mother, grandfather and great-grandmother before her, and landed a job. teacher at the Harmony School, where she had completed her internship.
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Anna, Cullman County’s 2021-22 Teacher of the Year, is in her 35th year teaching at West Point. It’s the only job she’s ever had, and it’s the one she’ll have mixed emotions about leaving at the end of this school year. “You put your heart and soul into it,” she says. “It’s almost like your way of life.”
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Her favorite thing about teaching kindergarten is the fact that “they still think at that age that the teacher is ‘it’,” she says. “I spend more hours with these children than the parents. It can be overwhelming to think about the influence, good or bad, you have on these children.
Meredith Ann has had plenty of hands-on experience as a substitute and physical education aide at her mother’s school to prepare her for her own class – not to mention access to her own lifelong mentor for advice when ‘she needs it.
“I have a good resource in my mother,” says Meredith Ann. She says her mother passed on the importance of maintaining structure in a kindergarten classroom and how repetition is key.
Anna says she “cried” at her open house when she thought it was her last year teaching. She also attended Meredith Ann’s open house, where she “sat and let her do her thing,” she says. And Anna was impressed with her daughter’s skills. “She knew exactly what to do.”
Anna holds back tears again as she talks about her daughter starting her own teaching career as Anna’s is coming to an end. “When your child achieves these accomplishments, you feel it’s as much you as they are,” she says.
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On the first day of school in August, Anna and Meredith Ann decided to take their own back-to-school photo, each holding a sign like their kindergarten students would. Anna’s sign said it was her “last day of teaching kindergarten” and her daughter’s sign said it was her “first day of teaching kindergarten.”
“It was really a special day,” says Anna.
Anna shared the photo on Facebook and Instagram, and “it just took off,” she says. “I was shocked at how many people shared it. It’s one of those feel-good things.
Just days prior, Meredith Ann got engaged and plans to get married next summer in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, adding another layer of emotion and planning to this school year.
“I warned our manager,” Anna said, “I could be a big mess this year.”