Zachary Meadows – Unsung Hero

Zach Meadows is a fifth-grade teacher at Lashmeet/Matoaka School in Mercer County, and his work during the pandemic has earned him recognition as an Unsung Hero by the West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS).

As a senior at PikeView High School, a guidance counselor referred Zach to DRS for assistance with his transition from school to postsecondary education.

When he was 7 years old, Zach was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He had several surgeries and radiation to treat his cancer. Ultimately this led to some cognitive learning issues, especially in reading comprehension.

After he graduated from high school in 2014, DRS provided Zach with financial support to attend Bluefield State College, where he earned his teaching degree in 2020.

Zach started his career during the middle of a global pandemic. And the only thing constant has been the need to be adaptable.

The educational day has been shortened but that just means that Zach must cram more information into less time. He spends the majority of his day with the children in his classroom, teaching them everything including math, science, handwriting, English and social studies. Physical education and band are the only two resources for which the students leave the classroom.

In anticipation of an inconsistent schedule for the school year, Zach started out using the online learning platform. He requires students to submit all assignments electronically even when they are in the classroom, which helped them to learn and adjust to the remote learning system before they got into a situation where they were forced to utilize it.

If the school had to go to remote learning or if a student had to quarantine because of exposure to COVID-19, he or she would have the knowledge and be prepared to complete assignments from home.

Despite having a compromised immune system because of his cancer and the unprecedented circumstances of a pandemic, Zach does not let the stress get to him. He wears a face mask or a face shield as a precaution.

He also tries to keep the anxiety level in his classroom very low. For many students, school is a safe haven. Not knowing if they will be in school from one day to another has been very stressful for the kids, and he tries to keep the atmosphere light.

DRS Rehabilitation Counselor Russell Hazelwood nominated Zach for the Unsung Heroes recognition. Hazelwood believes that being a teacher is a difficult job, but the pandemic has added constant change and uncertainty for educators. Zach's capacity to enter the profession during such a volatile time and to create a safe environment for his students make him worthy of this honor.

For Zach, one of the most difficult obstacles to becoming a teacher was passing the eight certification exams that are required. But he persisted. And ultimately, he persevered.

He believes his own personal experiences with having educational accommodations because of his cognitive learning disability help him to be more understanding of students who may have similar needs.

Zach's biggest goal is to be a positive role model for his students and to make a difference in their lives.

In addition to teaching, Zach also coaches middle and high school sports. His future plans include continuing on this path. It is not important for him to be a student's favorite teacher but rather to be one who can influence a life.