Former student returns as St. John's teacher in Plum

| Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Third grade was Megan Derry's favorite year as a student.

Derry, 22, of Plum, spent her elementary years at St. John the Baptist School.

Now, she has returned to her alma mater — this time as a third-grade teacher. Classes start Aug. 21.

“I am excited to be a part of the staff,” Derry said earlier this month as she arranged desks and books in her classroom at St. John, in Plum. “Everyone is so wonderful.”

Derry replaces St. John teacher Anne Jacobus, who retired.

Derry is a 2010 graduate of Plum High School. She graduated in May from Slippery Rock University with a bachelor's degree in early-childhood education.

In addition to having fond memories of her third-grade year of school, Derry taught third grade in the Butler Area School District during as her student-teaching assignment.

St. John Principal Theresa Szmed, who was Derry's science teacher when Derry attended the Catholic school, said of the dozen or so resumes she received for the job, Derry stood out.

“I know her character,” Szmed said. “She has very effective strategies working with little children that you don't (typically) see in new teachers.”

Szmed said Derry is skilled in both the use of activities involving interactive touch-sensitive whiteboards — as well as in differentiated instruction — tailoring teaching to meet individual students' needs.

“Using technology was how I was taught to teach,” Derry said.

Derry said her desire to become a teacher evolved in part from her positive experience working with preschoolers in the family-and-consumer-science program at Plum High School.

She became more interested in teaching as a profession after returning to St. John to observe some classes during her freshman year at the Community College of Allegheny County Boyce Campus in Monroeville.

Derry also kept in touch with the faculty at St. John as her younger siblings attended the school.

Still, returning to St. John as a teacher is a different experience.

“When I walked in the door (after being hired), I thought, ‘Is this happening?'” Derry said.

“She is still calling everyone (teachers) by Miss or Mrs.,” Szmed said with a chuckle.

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-871-2367 or

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