Oakland teacher wins national TFA award

Meg Stewart, Bret Harte Middle School teacher and Teach For America corps memberMeg Stewart, a second-year special education teacher at Bret Harte Middle School (East Oakland’s Laurel neighborhood), is one of four Teach For America members in the United States to win the Sue Lehmann Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Go Ms. Stewart! Way to represent Oakland.

Here’s the news release, which has more background about her classroom and the other TFA winners:

This year’s recipients are Megan Brousseau (New York) in the high school science category, Julia King (Chicago) in the elementary category, Meg Stewart (Bay Area) in the special education category, and Maurice Thomas (Atlanta) in the high school humanities category. The award was established in honor of the leadership and support of longtime national board member Sue Lehmann.

General education students regularly ask Meg Stewart how they can get into her special education classroom. Her room is designed around an aviation theme, with desks arrayed at the beginning of the year like planes in formation, the ceiling covered with a cloud-swept sky, individual progress plans mapped out as winding flight patterns on the wall (winding, she tells her students, because that represents the difficult and uniquely personal journey of working hard to learn), and each student’s “passport” binder stamped to signify their acquisition of math standards and reading goals. Stewart’s absolute obsession with having her students succeed and become lifelong self-advocates is evident in how her middle schoolers present themselves and their capabilities, and it is made manifest in their academic achievement.

Last year, Stewart’s students demonstrated 1.89 years of reading growth on the Developmental Reading Assessment and achieved a mastery level of 94 percent on prioritized standards. To invest her students in the daily reading practice necessary to achieve this growth, Stewart created an ersatz reading competition with a rival middle school. Every week her students gauged their progress against the competition by keeping track of the number of books read and A-Z levels passed; their competitive spirit kept them energized and invested.

According to Stewart’s program director, “Every student in Meg Stewart’s classroom can tell you what they are working on and why, and each and every one of them has confidence they will get there by the end of the year, because they will.”

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Deborah W

    She is a keeper! Can ‘hear’ all of the great creativity and teacher management and facilitation of learning in here! Congrats to her!

  • Sue

    Congratulations to Ms. Stewart and her students.

    At my autistic son’s high school graduation last week, at least three of his Spec Ed teachers were in attendance. One of them had been his middle school inclusion teacher, and she’s currently working in another district, but still keeps in touch with her old students.

    Spec Ed teachers make such an important contribution. They are my heroes, along with the aides that are rarely (never?) acknowledged. They should be recognized more often.

  • J.R.

    Way to go Ms.Stewart, we need more teachers like you, enjoy your summer, you have earned it.

  • Jessica Stewart

    Meg is a true hero. Congrats, and thanks to all SpEducators!

  • John Glover

    Congratulations, Meg!

    In addition to the amazing work she has done with her students at Bret Harte, she has also provided special education services at American Indian Public Charter School.

    Her unwavering dedication to her students is evident; it is no surprise that she was honored in this way.

    Great job.

  • Steven Weinberg

    Mr. Glover, I was interested in your comment that Ms. Stewart serves students at a charter as well as Bret Harte. How does that work financially? Do special ed students at charter schools generate funds for both the charter and the district or does the charter school pay the district for services for their special ed students. Or is the district responsible for providing services to special ed students at charter schools without any compensation.

  • Oakland Teacher


    OUSD charter schools usually are part of the special education district as well. Those charters have to pay a fee to OUSD to cover their special education costs. OUSD then sends its own staff to those schools (kind of like renting staff or buying an insurance policy). It is an interesting phenomenon. In addition, other charters either have their charter issued by other than OUSD or somehow opt out, and then supply their own special education staffing.