Pecan Grove's Meyers named Principal of the Year _lowres

Advocate staff photo by Ellyn Couvillion -- Marjorie Meyers, principal of Pecan Grove Primary in Gonzales, was named Louisiana's outstanding principal of the year, in the elementary school category.

Marjorie Meyers, principal of Pecan Grove Primary, thought she’d always be a classroom teacher.

“I still feel like a teacher,” she said.

Meyers said she sees one of her most important roles as a principal as being “an instructional leader” for her staff.

On July 12, Meyers was named Louisiana’s outstanding elementary school principal by the state Board of Education, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the nonprofit Dream Teachers.

Meyers began as a new principal in 2008 at a school that opened its doors for the first time that year.

Pecan Grove Primary, in Gonzales, was built to help ease overcrowding at two other elementary schools, G. W. Carver and Gonzales Primary. Meyers had served as assistant principal at Gonzales Primary.

Meyers, who has her undergraduate and graduate degrees, plus 30 hours of post-graduate work, from Southeastern Louisiana University, was a classroom teacher for 18 years, 14 of those in Ascension Parish, before moving into administration.

“I truly was an accidental administrator,” Meyers said.

Around her 17th year as a teacher, she had an opportunity to teach senior education students at LSU in evening and summer classes and learned, “I really did enjoy working with adults,” she said.

It wasn’t long after that when she began working as an instructional coach for teachers at G. W. Carver and Gonzales Primary.

“From that experience, just seeing the impact that just one person could have on an entire school” helped Meyers decide to go into administration, she said.

She went back to school to take three required courses at satellite campuses of Southeastern in Walker, Hammond and Mandeville to be certified in administration.

“I had avoided those classes like the plague. I thought I would retire as a teacher,” Meyers said.

In 2006, Meyers was named assistant principal at Gonzales Primary, then two years later became principal at Pecan Grove Primary.

Pecan Grove, with close to 550 students and a staff of 90, of which 36 are classroom teachers, has made enormous strides since it opened.

Top stories in Baton Rouge in your inbox

Twice daily we'll send you the day's biggest headlines. Sign up today.

In 2008, students were below level in reading and weren’t doing very well on standardized tests, Meyers said.

When the state began grading schools several years ago, the school had a D, she said.

Pecan Grove began working very hard to turn things around, she said.

“We knew it would take a while,” Meyers said.

But four years ago, “we began to see a change in our grade,” she said.

It went from a D, to a C, then to a B, which the school also maintained for the past school year.

“Now we’re knocking on the door of an A,” Meyers said.

“We did this with the same group of teachers and no demographics changes,” she said.

As one of the schools in the district’s Turnaround Zone, which provides additional resources and support to struggling schools, Pecan Grove “changed our focus from instruction practice to student results,” Meyers said.

Teachers met — and still do — for 90 minutes every day to look over their students’ daily work and use it as a guide for planning their lessons for the next day, said Meyers, who also sits down at those meetings to look at student work.

“When you look at what a student does each and every day, you can make immediate adjustments,” she said.

Meyers said that it was personally rewarding to be recently recognized by the state, but that the best part of being named a Principal of the Year is that “it’s a great opportunity to spotlight what’s going on at our school.

“We’re a little school in Gonzales that’s taking care of business,” she said.

“I’m very proud of what our students and staff have achieved. You can’t ask for a better career than that.”