Alumni in Action

Caitlin Meehan-Draper

Teacher, 8th grade English Language Arts

Caitlin Meehan-Draper
Class of 2010
Majors: Literature
Minor: French
Advanced Degree: University of Alabama, School of Education
Where are you now and what are you doing?

After joining Teach For America in 2010, I taught 10th -12th grade English in a very rural, impoverished community in West Alabama. It was the most challenging experience of my life and also the most amazing. In February 2012, after teaching Dr. Wiesel's Night, I took 16 students back to Eckerd College to see Wiesel speak. It was one of the most important experiences of my life, and it closed a huge exposure gap for my eager but inexperienced students. In June 2012, I took a marvelous job teaching 8th grade English at a school in New Orleans. I still work with a high-needs population, but this time I am teaching in an urban community. I love going to work every day, and I love that no two days are alike. Most of all, I love spreading my love of literature to younger people. I have Dr. Jewel Spears Brooker to thank for starting my career and deepening my already genuine love of good literature and good teachers.

What does your job entail and how has your Eckerd experience impacted your career?

I teach some of the same literature to my students that I learned at Eckerd. Dr. Jewel Spears Brooker and I are still in contact regularly. We even attended a TS Eliot conference together in Summer 2011. Professor Carolyn Johnston, Professor Jared Stark, Dean Annarelli, President Eastman, and countless other Eckerd faculty and staff are the reason that my students from Alabama got to go to Florida and meet Dr. Wiesel. All of those students are in college or will be going next year. Eckerd had a huge part in that. I can't say enough about Eckerd.

What unique or special opportunities did your Eckerd education provide and how have they impacted your life?

I was a Ford Apprentice Scholar with Dr. Jewel Spears Brooker. This enabled me to assist in teaching 2 classes: Literature and Art of the Great War and American Literature II. This is where my love of teaching was realized. With Dr. Brooker, I embarked on a novel study of Madison Jones' A Cry of Absence, a story of a rural Southern town whose hierarchy is dismantled with the onset of the Civil Rights Movement. It inspired me to teach English in a rural Southern town, of course. In Summer 2009, Dr. Brooker and I took a trip through the South to study at different archives. We even interviewed Madison Jones. Our interview was published shortly after in the Mississippi Quarterly. Since then, I've also presented a paper in Paris at the TS Eliot Society meeting. Most recently, my article "Transforming a Rural Community Through Lessons of the Holocaust" was published in Southern Jewish Life. Eckerd is still a huge part of my life, and I am thankful for it every day. It's not just the resume it's created for me; its the open-minded world view, the sense of exploration, and the feeling of duty to others.

What makes Eckerd so special or why does it stand out to you as a great college? What does it mean to you now that you have been away for awhile?

I look at it as the most fun I've ever had and the most I've ever learned. The people were amazing. The faculty all cared and all wanted the best for me. Julie Empric and Jared Stark were so tough on us, but I learned so much about perseverance from them. I remember running through the Palm Hammocks, sailing, loving nature, having the windows open, dancing, reading, reading, reading, throwing parties. It was truly life at its happiest.

Describe some of the people who had a profound impact on your Eckerd experience.

Dr. Jewel Spears Brooker taught me that you can be an internationally famous scholar, a genuinely great teacher and mentor, and a fantastic mother. Dr. Jared Stark taught me to be a responsible scholar and stop making excuses and just get it. Dr. Empric taught me that my writing needed improvement. Dr. Carolyn Johnston taught me compassion through literature. Dean Annarelli and President Eastman made me proud to be a graduate by showing endless, unquestioned love to my students.

Using 5 words or fewer complete this sentence: Eckerd is…

where my happiest memories are.

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