Former school teacher Meredith Langan returned to the classroom for a day thanks to St. John the Baptist School in Plymouth and the nearby assisted-living residence where Langan resides. (Submitted photo)
It didn’t matter whether she was in a classroom or not — Meredith Langan has always been a teacher at heart.
So, when the 86-year-old was given the opportunity to do absolutely anything, the choice was simple: she wanted to be a teacher again, just for a day.
Thanks to the efforts of the staff at The Waterford at Plymouth, the assisted living community where Langan resides, and nearby St. John the Baptist Catholic School, Langan got her wish.
Teachers and students rolled out the red carpet for Langan on a mid-November morning, lining the halls to welcome her into the Sheboygan County school. After members of the student council presented her with a bouquet of flowers and a “Teacher for the Day” certificate, Langan proceeded to the 3K classroom, where her great-grandson Jonah is a student, and read to the class.
“They took something that could have just been so simple, and they made her queen for a day,” said Meredith Langan-Gluck, Langan’s daughter and Jonah’s grandmother.
“It was wonderful that we could help make her dream come true to be back in a classroom again,” said Amy Nelson, principal of St. John the Baptist. “It was an amazing and very heartwarming experience.”
It all started when The Waterford reached out to Nelson to inquire if she and her colleagues could help make Langan’s wish come true. The Waterford has a “Tree of Dreams” program, where staff members ask residents, “If money was no object, what is something that you would like to do?” Langan-Gluck explained. Other “dreams” that residents have seen fulfilled include riding on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and attending a Brewers game in Milwaukee. But Langan knew exactly what she would do, if she could do anything.
“Mom said she wanted to teach again,” Langan-Gluck said.
Langan became a first grade teacher in the suburbs of Chicago in 1959, but by the end of the school year she was married and expecting her first child. At the time, pregnant women were expected to immediately leave the workforce, so she had to leave her beloved students, most of whom had attended her recent wedding. But she poured all that energy into educating her own children: “Mom always told me that I went to the best preschool in the world, because it was just me and her,” Langan-Gluck said. “Just because you’re no longer in a classroom doesn’t mean you’re not teaching anymore.”
After Langan’s three children were grown, she returned to the classroom, teaching fifth grade for 15 years until her retirement.
As she sat in the 3K classroom at St. John the Baptist reading “Llama Llama Red Pajama,” Langan showed that she still had the ability to create a rapport with students, even after all these years, as she invited the children to engage with the book in their own way, showing them the illustrations and discussing the geographic regions where llamas live.
“I just saw this light come on (within her),” Langan-Gluck said. “She just kept saying to me, ‘It’s just like it’s not even real. It was the best day I’ve had in a long, long time.’”