Meshon Crateau can dance circles around the average educator, figuratively and literally! This teacher, dean and dance team coach is one of the best assets in the Hardin Valley school pipeline. Just FYI: Mrs. Crateau will tell you anything you want to know for a large, McDonald’s sweet tea 🙂
Adam: Pronounce your name for me.
Meshon: My full name is Cherish Christie Meshon Crateau. I had ‘those’ parents. *laughter* Adam: What’s the meaning of each name?
Meshon: My dad’s parents wanted to name me Cherish and my mom’s parents wanted to name me Christie (because it has Christ in it). Then, right before I was born there was a tv commercial about Vietnam children you could adopt. My mom asked her Vietnamese friend about a child’s name and learned it was, Meshon. And my dad’s name is Sean, so it all worked out.
Adam: Then you got married and got the last name Crateau. What’s the story on that?
Adam: Do you know what that means?
Meshon: No. Now that you mention it, I’ve never googled it!
Adam: So where were you born?
Meshon: I was born in Sparta, Tennessee and we lived there until the middle of my senior year of high school.
Adam: Where did you do your last semester?
Meshon: Farragut. I wouldn’t call myself a rebellious teen when we moved, but I was heartbroken and semi shut down about it. Now, I’m so thankful we moved. We should have moved sooner.
Adam: What was so much better about that transition for you?
Meshon: The opportunities. Coming from a small town there’s good and bad, but a lot of times you see people stuck in that small town and they never get out. I hope I don’t offend anybody by saying this, but moving here was suddenly so different. The houses were different, the cars were different, even the way the girls wore their hair was different. I had never seen girls wear buns in their hair until I moved here. I remember thinking that it was crazy. The students here carried backpacks, which was also weird. We didn’t have that in Sparta. We went to our locker in between every class and no one owned a backpack. The push for education within each family here is great as well. In my family, It wasn’t a question of ‘if’ we were ever going to go to college, it was more of a question of where were you going to go. I found it was more like that here. That wasn’t really the case for Sparta. The move prepared me for the future. I wasn’t afraid to turn around and leave and attend college at the University of Memphis. I wasn’t afraid for my freshman year of college or to dance. I was ready to go because I had already let go once. I looked at it as an adventure and not a sadness.
Adam: Do you have family from Sparta or did your dad move there for his practice?
Meshon: My mom and dad are from Warren County, Tennessee, which neighbors Sparta. Once they got married, he finished school and they moved to Sparta. He was a partner in a practice at first and then ventured out on his own. I grew up on main street in Sparta. My dad’s office was literally right next door and then we had the public library on the other side of our home. It was the epitome of Mayberry.
Adam: Tell me more about the colleges you’ve gone to.
Meshon: I went to University of Memphis. It was Memphis State up until December and then it switched over. I loved it there. I danced and got to fulfill my childhood dream of dancing for the University of Memphis.
Adam: What a specific dream!
Meshon: Very specific. I started watching when I was in third grade. The dancing nationals would come on and I would record it every year and play back my VHS tape in slow motion to learn all the Memphis routines. I could probably do every routine from 1983 to 1993 when I tried out and made it. Thank goodness I made it! That was such a blessing. I ended up transferring to UT a year later and finished out my bachelor’s and master’s there.
Adam:Why did you transfer?
Meshon: The reality of what it takes to do dance set in. I went there to dance, and my dad had reminded me I was there for college classes as well. I also saw it not being appreciated as a sport, but knowing everything we would go through. You see the eating disorders and all that going on. I think in order to stop all that I had to completely divorce myself from it. It was a good experience though.
Adam: What did you major in?
Meshon: I wanted to major in nutrition and be a dietitian at first. My dad wasn’t a fan of that, because I would just end up working at a nursing home and I don’t do the smells of nursing home very well. We decided that wouldn’t work for me. I wanted to be a psychiatrist at one point, and my dad shot that down as well. Finally, after I left Memphis, they called me and asked to publish my freshman papers that I wrote. They wanted to use them as examples for upcoming Freshman. I was like, whoa! I found a major! I remember calling my dad at work and telling him, “I want to major in English!” I got my bachelor’s and my dad’s said, “What are you going to do with this?” So I went and got my masters. Now, I’m applying to go back and get my EDS.
Adam: Do you have a desire to go into administration?
Meshon: My goal is to be the freshman principal at Hardin Valley Academy. That’s it. I’m all freshmen. I just want to stay here. I love it here. I don’t want to leave. If I could just be the principal here, it’d be amazing.
Adam: You would do an excellent job.
Adam: How many years have you taught?
Meshon: 22. That’s crazy!
Adam: How many have been at Hardin Valley?
Meshon: 10. I missed the first year they were open.
Adam: Where else have you taught?
Meshon: I’ll work from the beginning. My very first job out of college, I worked at a place called Haslam Academy that’s no longer here. It was a lock down treatment facility. I had that kind of superman complex where I was going to save the world and what better way than a lock down treatment facility. I taught all boys and stayed there for a year and a half. After that, I got an interview in a public school because I figured out that I was still on the poverty level with a master’s degree. I was only making $18,000 a year. Loudon County had called and I interviewed for an English position in a middle school and went to that interview but didn’t get it. As soon as I hung up the phone, they called me right back and offered me a job for an emotionally disturbed 7th grade boys classroom. I wanted to get away from that, but I took it anyway. They ended up not even putting us at the middle school. They put us at their vocational school. I had 7th grade boys stuck in this vocational high school and it was the best thing that ever happened. It was such a family oriented place and I fell in love with the idea of vocational schools. Then, I got to go teach juniors the next year. It was so much fun though! I would teach them English and History. I had a partner who would teach the Math and Science. Then, kids would just go down the hall and go to auto mechanic or wood shop. This was about the time my dad has his accident and became paralyzed. When he got out of the hospital, the woodshop class made ramps for his house and it was really sweet and it was very homey. I stayed there for a long time.
Adam: Did you stay there until you came here?
Meshon: I met my husband and he moved me to Cincinnati for a year until we moved back. I taught in northern Kentucky because my license only goes to bordering states. He had promised me that they don’t shut down for snow and all these stories. Then, I got pregnant and we were out of school for a month. I got depressed and needed to come back home. So we did. Then, I went back to Loudon until I came here.
Adam: Happy wife, happy life!
Adam: What subjects are you teaching?
Meshon: I teach a year long freshman English and I have a partner who teaches the History part and is called ‘Geoglish’ (because it used to be Geography and English). It’s now History and English and we haven’t come up with a new cute word yet. I also teach a college prep English 1 and I teach Reading Intervention. It’s predominantly all freshmen all day.
Adam: How many preps?
Meshon: 2. Reading Intervention doesn’t count as a prep.
Adam: What clubs do you sponsor or sports do you coach?
Meshon: I coach the dance team. I’ve been coaching dance for about 14 years. I am a TALONS sponsor as well. TALONS means Teach And Lead Our New Students. I’m responsible for mentoring the incoming freshman into their freshman year. It’s a lot of fun. I’m in charge of the 8th Grade Night and their visits, Valley Palooza, and also the big visit day in August. It’s a lot of fun.
Adam: What’s your favorite part about TALONS?
Meshon: One of the things I get to do as a dean is go to the middle school and meet some of the students while we discuss their schedules and the courses with them. Then, when they come and visit the high school, or when they see me in the mall, they’ve come up to me saying they remember me. I love when they come back as freshman and let me know they had such a great experience and that it made them feel so welcome. That’s probably my favorite part.
Adam: Why do you think you click with freshmen so well?
Meshon: I just don’t know! Maybe I’m smarter than them a little bit. I’m their same height? *laughter*. I think because you can still mold them their freshman year and that’s kind of the make or break year. They’re just coming out of middle school and from my daughter’s middle school experience, they still care about their education. We’re not here to prepare them for college. We’re trying to teach them how to be good people and how to be a good high school student. We’re here to teach them how to advocate for themselves and teach them how to start taking responsibility.
Adam: Why did you get into teaching?
Meshon: Two reasons. One, I knew I wanted to have kids someday. Teaching will be the closest thing I could get to being a stay at home mom. Second, I like kids and I thought that I had the patience for teaching. I lucked out. I turned out to be pretty good at it.
Meshon: What would you do if you weren’t teaching?
Adam: Oh, that’d be fun. If I was not a teacher and I was a little bit smarter, I would want to be a CSI type of agent. I’d want to do everything. I want to solve the crime. I want to do the autopsies. That would be amazing. I think that’s why I’m pushing my daughters into it more. They say, “Mom, you’re saying that because it’s what you want to do.” I’m like, but that’d be cool! Then I can visit you!
Adam: You’d just pop right in and bust the case wide open!
Adam: Who is your favorite teacher when you were a student?
Meshon: There’s a couple, because we went to a couple of different little schools growing up. My first school was only Kindergarten through 4th grade. The teacher there was Mrs. (Bertram?), she was my 1st grade teacher and I loved her. Then, I moved to Finley Elementary for two years and I had my first male teacher, Mr. Sparkman. I’m facebook friends with him so he’ll get a kick out of this. I had the biggest crush on him. All the girls did. He was just a really, really, really good teacher. There were some good high school teachers that prepared us for school, but I think he was the one that had me looking forward to school everyday.
Adam: What was your high school mascot?
Meshon: Farragut Admirals and the Sparta Warriors. We were maroon and grey. The most drab colors ever.
Adam: That’s my high school colors as well. *laughter* I like them!
Adam: Which educator have you learned the most from?
Meshon: When it comes to Hardin Valley Academy, I would say to like Mr. Ash and Mrs. Reynolds. Really, all of our administration because they keep pushing you. They don’t want you to be inside the box. They want you to be outside the box. They don’t want you to take your work home and do it. They say, “Leave it here. At home is home and schools for school.” I like that philosophy! I used to team teach Geoglish with Mr. Wise. I think we did a good job of building that and honing out what team teaching should look like. To answer your question I would say the people here. All of them. I learn something new everyday. I would love to just to watch these other teachers teach. I think it’s fun to see what they’re doing.
Adam: Have you earned any professional awards?
Meshon: I was nominated for Teacher of the Year here in 2013 and I was WBIR teacher of the month in Loudon.
Adam: What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Meshon: In Loudon I coached an amazing group of dancers. It was different than it is here. All of the girls that I keep in contact with would agree as well. Being from Loudon was no different than being from Sparta. Those girls didn’t have anything else to do but dance. We would practice so much. At Loudon, they gave us an hour for lunch. That was the time for you to go do 30 minutes of club, you could go eat, play basketball, or go to a study hall. Those girls wanted to practice, so they would all eat lunch in my room and then practice. We went to a competition that year and we won 1st in the nation. It was crazy. It was amazing. For them, that’s never been repeated. Seeing these girls in a small town take a national title was amazing. As far as here goes, being named the Dean of Freshmen is just GREAT! I’m still on cloud 9. This is year two and I love every minute of it.
Adam: Well that’s exciting. So you still keep in touch with the girls?
Meshon: Oh yeah. I’ve been invited to every wedding, seen every baby picture, we’re friends on Facebook, we constantly message each other, and anytime any kind of dance video pops up, we start tagging each other and making comments.
Adam: Did you do dance at UT as well?
Meshon: No, I was just a student.
Adam: What do you consider a successful student to be?
Meshon: Somebody who is not afraid to fail but will keep trying. Someone that tries to better themselves each and every time and for them to understand an A is not the end all be all. Someone else’s D is the equivalent of someone else’s A. I’m more proud of the kid that brings a 22 up to a 72 than I am of that kid who made a 93 and now you brought it up to 98. You were going to make that anyway and an A’s an A. But this kid went from a 22, to a 72. That’s huge. That is huge! The encouragement is when they see that they can do it and they want to do it.
Adam: What improvement would you most like to see in public education?
Meshon: We always want the funding.
Adam: Funding to go where?
Meshon: I would love for them to add onto the school. I know that won’t happen because we’re the newest school in the county as far as high schools are concerned, but we’ve outgrown this building and we’re squished. People don’t realize it. My husband helped get the middle school built and the number of houses here is insane! We had 540 freshmen this year. Even though we’ve divorced from Karns, with all the housing and all the permits, is it going to be the same or are we going to continue to grow? We don’t need more books. I don’t think teachers here even use books. Our technology is good. Our teachers are great. I think we just need the space. Give us the space and let us do what we do.
Adam: What is something that you could use in your classroom?
Meshon: We could use hooks to put on the wall. And charging stations because these kids have got to charge their phone! If they’re charging their phones, they’re not on their phones. I’m all about that. Again, going back to that space, I have 36 kids in my class and we were literally having students trip over back packs coming in the door or turning in papers if they didn’t pay attention. So, I would take hooks for them to hang their backpacks on.
Adam: Let me ask this real quick. So when you said more space, would that translate into smaller class size?
Meshon: If we had more space, I think we would be able to do smaller classes even if we rotated. I don’t mind the rotation.
Adam: Is that when you don’t have your own room?
Meshon: Correct. I get the idea of rotation. Most schools are so segregated into their subject matter. That’s where you start questioning if you are teaching your subject or if you are teaching the kids. I think that’s two different things. I teach kids. I think rotation helps with that. When it comes evaluation time, one of the things on the rubric is Knowledge of Subject. I’ll never know my subject well enough, but boy I know my kids and I know what they can get and what they can’t get. I don’t mind the whole idea of sharing a classroom because that makes us a family and it causes us to share things and teach the kids how to share. You’re also teaching kids that respect of knocking before you come in, even though it’s your room maybe three out of four times. I still knock on the door. I never barge in. What’s mine is yours, man. We had two teachers find out that they are going to share a room, and tomorrow they’ll stockpile the dry erase markers, the paper, and the pencils. They will stockpile it as opposed to putting it in a drawer and locking it. At the beginning of the school year instead of having those class fees, I always tell parents to not send in a fee, but next time you’re at Walmart and you see pencils on clearance, buy a couple of packs and send them in. That would help the kids that forget their pencils. So, we have a big thing of pencils now. We have all kinds of paper. So next year we’ll probably ask for markers and colored pencils and restock those.
Adam: What hobbies do you have?
Meshon: I love dancing and I need to get back into exercising really. Truly, I guess my hobby is my kids. Especially my son because there’s a decade difference between my oldest and my youngest. I think there’s so much of an appreciation of every stage that he’s in because I know it’s going to end.
Adam: Oh, he’s the baby!
Meshon: He’s the baby. And I eat up every stage.
Adam: How old is he?
Meshon: He just turned 5.
Adam: What’s a good way for a student or parent to spoil you?
Meshon: Oh, gift cards. Pure Luxe. Saving up for Botox! *Laughter*
Adam: Ah, toxins! As a chemist, I have a hard time with that. My wife loves jewelry. I tell her all the time, “Oh, you like rocks and metal.” *Laughter*
Meshon: My assistant coach is in school for that. She wants to be the Esthetician. Maybe she’d practice on me in the summertime, so then only my kids and husband would have to see me. *Laughter*
Adam: Gift cards! Pure Luxe is a great one. Any others?
Meshon: I love Spoiled Rotten in Karns and I love Amazon. Amazon and Target are probably my favorite. Those are go to’s and the easiest. Amazon gets dangerous actually. My husband will say, “You seriously have ordered shampoo off Amazon?” I didn’t feel like getting out and doubt he did either. Haha!
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