Educator Spotlight: Chandra Meach
By Cirien Saadeh | Staff Reporter
Meach teaches reading, writing, and social studies at Hmong International Academy, a magnet school in the Jordan neighborhood. She is a long-time Northsider who previously taught at Lucy Craft Laney Elementary School. Meach is described as a “teacher leader” by her peers at HIA and has been teaching grades 2-5 for 20 years. She is also a Cambodian refugee and world-traveler, having traveled to over 70 countries, who moved to the United States in the late 1970s.
Why did you go into education?
I became a teacher because when I was younger. I didn’t notice teachers who look like me, and I struggled a lot with identity growing up because [of that]. I’m from Cambodia, [and] April 17, 1975 is the day that Pol Pot took control of my country, and I came to America because most of the educators were murdered in my country. Even though I had an issue with identity growing up, I feel like my strength here is my identity. I became a teacher to give back to my community and to be able to let my students know “people who look like you can make it in this world.”
What is your teaching philosophy?
The curriculum doesn’t teach, it’s me. When I am in the classroom, it’s me that determines what it’s going to be like for the day. My students bring in the different stories. I believe in that beauty. In everything that I do, I include my students and who they are, and I think that identity is a huge issue. If you’re sitting in class and you’re trying to teach students into a bigger society, if you’re missing that piece of who they are and what they can bring in, I think it’s going to be hard to capture in the classroom.
What is your favorite lesson to teach?
I love teaching figurative language because I love to talk to my students about the different sayings, similes, metaphors, and idioms and all those fun things. We just finished that unit. It’s fun to see my students’ reactions, to see them illustrate different sayings, and it’s cool to see them say stuff from their country, as well.
What is your favorite country that you have been to?
Cambodia. I’ve been back. I love Turkey and the Middle East. And I love Laos; Laos is a beautiful country. One of my favorite countries in Europe is Bosnia. It’s a beautiful country with so much history. And of course Italy. I backpacked through Italy.
What is your favorite food from your travels?
I would have to say because I love sushi. When I was in Japan, Japan ruined it for me. America does not have good sushi; I ate good sushi in Japan. I’ve been to Turkey and I love Turkish food. Anything with a lot of spices, curry.
What do you love about North Minneapolis?
I’ve been here for 20 years. The fall looks really beautiful, the colors of North Minneapolis. The people here, the small businesses. I’ve seen so much growth here, so much change here; it’s so good. I feel welcomed here. The students and the families here. North Minneapolis is my second home, almost. It’s a beautiful place to be, a great place to teach. The people here are friendly, kind-hearted. I always tell my friends, it’s not what you hear, you have to be in there to know.
North News has launched a new column to highlight the work of Northside educators doing innovative and socially just work in our North Minneapolis classrooms. If you have any recommendations for our upcoming spotlights, you can email North News at ciriens@pillsburyunited. org. If possible, please include contact information for the person you are recommending.