THIS MONTH'S WINNER: Megan Opitz - Archway Veritas

NOMINATED BY: Anuj Bhatnagar

As many parents can attest, those early days of kindergarten can be tough. Once the pictures of the little ones in their new backpacks are taken, there’s eventually that moment when you have to let go. The grace of a good kindergarten teacher can be priceless for both the child and the parent. 

“Mrs. Opitz made time to meet with me personally when I was worried about how my daughter would fit in to the school setting before she started,” said Anuj Bhatnagar, father of three who have all been in Mrs. Opitz’s care at Archway Veritas. 

The Bhatnagar family has nothing but praise for this special teacher, with kind words from each child in their 400-word nomination. But they could have missed out on her talents, because she almost took a different path. After graduating from ASU with a degree in education, Opitz took the next step into the public education system. Yet she found it a bit troubling, and not really what she thought it was going to be. 

“It seemed very scripted,” said Opitz. “I didn’t really feel challenged and it felt like the students weren’t either.”

So, she took a break and enrolled in Arizona Culinary School and pursued her love of cooking, which included an externship at Vincent’s on Camelback. While that love of the culinary arts didn’t fade, Opitz found herself drawn back to education, with a position at a new school with a different concept. 

“When I heard about what they were doing here, with the focus on virtue, and the philosophy of teaching with the classics and the Socratic method, it just sounded wonderful.” said Opitz.

The Socratic method is a question and answer based philosophy of teaching, designed to stimulate conversation and dissection of topics among the students. The foundation for this method begins in kindergarten, and the young minds pick things up quickly. After all, this is the age when they learn how to read, and that’s one of the main reasons why Opitz enjoys the 5-year-olds so much.

“That first time they read a book without having to sound out, I usually cry. They just put in so much work building up to it, and they are so proud of themselves.”

Bhatnagar’s youngest son will be moving on to first grade next year, and while that will wrap up the family’s experience with kindergarten and Mrs. Opitz, her influence and encouragement will carry on. 

“Our 11-year-old son still credits her with giving him a foundation for learning that has carried him through the following five years in school at the top of his class,” said Bhatnagar. “In the one year that she has with our children, she gets them to learn how to be a citizen of a classroom, how to be an independent learner, and how to value the virtues of truth, beauty and goodness.”