Cleveland teacher one of 16 state educators to receive Humanities Texas award

Megan Durtche, a history teacher at Santa Fe Middle School for Cleveland ISD, is presented with a Humanities Texas award by State Rep. Ernest Bailes (left) and Caroline Crimm (right) with Humanities Texas.

Santa Fe Middle School history teacher Megan Durtche may be relatively new to teaching, but she is quickly rising to the top of her field. On Tuesday, State Rep. Ernest Bailes (House District 18) and Caroline Crimm with Humanities Texas presented Durtche with the Humanities Texas award, which recognizes outstanding teaching in Texas classrooms. Only 16 teachers across the state received Humanities Texas awards this year, and Durtche is proud to represent Cleveland ISD on the list.

“I am blessed to be in Cleveland. I started my education journey here because two people took a chance on me – Dr. Glenn Barnes and Dr. Kristy Dietrich,” said Durtche, speaking of the former Cleveland High School principals. “I remember when they hired me, I was sitting in the front office of the high school and it was the end of the day. I was watching as all of these kids were getting ready to go home. They were interacting with their teachers and a coach, and they were all happy. I knew at that point that this is where I had to be.”

She credits Principal Mark Rodriguez, who is now over the Douglass Learning Academy, with showing her how to connect to her students, and SFMS Principal Joshua McDonald and Superintendent Stephen McCanless for continuing to inspire her as a teacher.

“Mr. Rodriguez showed me that in order to be a good teacher, you have to be connected to your students. I spent my first couple of years not teaching, but still teaching, if that makes sense. It was really hard to move away from the high school to a new place, but then I got a new OG boss man – Mr. McDonald. Between he and Mr. McCanless, and countless other people, they have taught me that leading is not something you just do; it’s a service and leading with a servant’s heart is the most important thing,” she said.

McCanless said Durtche is the epitome of a teacher.

“I had the honor of observing her over the last few years, going into her classroom and watching her in action. She truly does take teaching to the next level. She challenges students to think one step further than what they are used to in a classroom. When I was managing the Gear Up Grant for the District, she approached me about some virtual goggles. I asked what her plans were and she said, ‘Well, history is all over the world. I want my students to be there, to feel like they are walking through history.’ She showed me a sample of what the virtual goggles would do and I wasted no time approving the purchase,” he said. “You are actually at the Great Pyramids, the museums in Paris and Big Ben in London. Those goggles brought history home to the students. It took her forethought as a great teacher to know what to ask for.”

In presenting the award, Crimm explained what set Durtche apart from the thousands of other applications that were received this year.

“Megan says she doesn’t teach students history. Instead, she offers ideas to her students to explore and finds ways to bring history alive. Every lesson should begin with a question, and often this is a question that pushes students to look at their own lives and set the stage for them to ask questions. They will work to trace their own history through time to look for the answers. By starting with a question, Megan gives the students a chance to watch as history comes alive around them,” Crimm said.

Durtche has also introduced White Glove Days for her students. Every nine weeks, students come to class, put on their gloves and look at artifacts, some from 5,000 years ago.

“These are the things that make history come alive for our students. On White Glove Days, my goal is for the fun parts of history to come alive. Students get to handle artifacts and study them. They make observations about the items and then research to understand what they are and how they fit into what they are studying. These are junior historians and they are the ones who are going to carry on our history, which is so critical,” said Durtche in her application, which Crimm read at the award presentation.

“We live in a world where technology has changed what education looks like and the task of drawing in students for just a few minutes time is daunting. Ask any teacher. Her goal as a teacher is to be sure that students leave her room knowing two things – how they fit into history and that they have a chance to leave their own imprint on history,” said Crimm.

The award to Durtche comes with a $5,000 cash prize that she plans to use to pursue her principalship training.

“I am currently working on my doctorate. I have a year and a half left, but I am going to work on my principalship at the same time because I am one of those people who likes to challenge myself,” she said.

Durtche is originally from Ketchikan, Alaska. While away at college, she met her husband, Eric Durtche, who was in the military. She earned a nursing degree and worked as a traveling nurse for years. When her husband was medically retired after being involved in an explosion that earned him a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, Durtche said it was time for them to reexamine their lives. She decided to give up nursing and go into teaching in order to have more time off with her husband and their children.

“We traveled around a lot. We were trying to figure out where we were going to go next and what we were going to do. We threw a dart at a map and it landed on Texas, so we came here,” she said. “I decided to get into education and did my student teaching at Humble and Kingwood ISDs. I liked it there, but I felt like something was missing. I happened to find Cleveland ISD when I was looking for nearby school districts. Cleveland ISD was different than others I had seen.”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.