From Student to Teacher: Forman Scholar Megan Pankok Setting Out to Inspire Others Through Her Love of English

Megan Pankok believes in the power of the written word. And when this Forman Scholar graduates from Drew University in a few years, she wants to share her passion with students just as eager to learn as she is.

After learning from a fantastic teacher in high school, Megan believes she has found her calling to help instill a love of reading and writing in others as she heads to Madison, New Jersey this fall where she plans to study English in hopes of becoming an English professor someday.

With a number of possible school options to choose from, Megan picked Drew University only after careful consideration. She looked at both Gettysburg College and West Chester University in Pennsylvania but ultimately decided on Drew because of the five-year Master’s degree program the school offers, which will put her on the fast track towards becoming an English professor.

While she has always had a passion for reading and writing, particularly historical fiction, Megan was inspired to pursue a future in academia not by a single book or piece of literature, but by an especially impactful teacher.

“I had a wonderful English teacher, Ms. Ilaria, and her teaching style wasn’t just focused on the basic things you need to do in order to pass a class.  She really made it so that everyone was able to pass in their own way,” Megan said. “If you were a good reader or writer, she found other ways for you to pass rather than just forcing everyone to write essays.”

During her high school career, Megan gained some additional insight into the art of teaching when she volunteered to tutor young children at a youth group in Salem. She says the experience helped show her why she wanted to teach secondary and college students, as well as how important studying English is. Tutoring made her realize just how much of a difference she could make in the lives of her students.

“I had one student who was from Puerto Rico, and he really struggled with his English because it wasn’t his first language. He was really struggling at school because he couldn’t read the directions” she said. “I learned from that experience that English is so important, and no matter what area of study you want to go into, I just want to make it fun for people.”

Earlier this summer Megan attended the annual Forman Scholars dinner, which celebrated and brought together all Forman Scholars about to embark on or continue their college journeys. Megan says she wasn’t sure what to expect but was thrilled that she was able to attend because she met some interesting new people and reconnected with helpful staff from the Foundation. The dinner was the perfect send off before heading to college, Megan said. It gave her the opportunity to reflect on her experience and what it means to have access to the Foundation’s resources and relationships.

“It really gives me a sense of pride, both in myself and in the community,” Megan said. “I’ve lived in Salem all my life, and it can be a struggle for a lot of people. I’m really proud of the Forman Scholars and how this designation reflects that Salem isn’t just the place people think it is. It’s so much more than the issues that people can perceive us to only have. The students and the next generations are really climbing the ranks and putting in their all. It also really reflects on all the work I put in and it’s a reminder that everything was worth it in the end. All the hardship, every grade, every class was all worth it in the end.”

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