Social Studies Teachers Receive Graduate Degrees

Two of Mount Madonna School’s (MMS) middle/high faculty, Amy Neff and Matthew Meachen, recently earned master’s degrees in education, a significant milestone in their personal and professional development.

Meachen, who joined MMS in 2005, received his M.A. in Education from Bethany University in August. He teaches high school  World History as well as Integrated American Studies, a two-year AP U.S. History and AP U.S. Government course. This year, in response to numerous student and parent requests, he will also teach Economics. Meachen is a member of the School’s Guidance Council.

“I am very relieved to be finished, and to have completed the program without sacrificing my first priority – my students. I am encouraged to have seen how much I can take on at any given time. It appears that most limitations are self-imposed, and sometimes necessity provides an opportunity to reevaluate those limitations.”

Meachen’s decision to become a teacher emerged when he was a student at Soquel High. “I had a few coaches and teachers that had a profoundly positive influence on my life. I’m very indebted,” he says.

“As much as I appreciate history for its own sake, I prefer to use it as a context by which we come to understand the world that we live in,” he explains. “More than anything, I hope that my social studies classes inspire and encourage students to see that they can have meaningful lives that are of value to their respective communities, country and the world.”

Neff earned her M.A. in Education in May from the University of California, Davis. She joined the MMS faculty in 2010 to teach middle school social studies.

“I’ve had the goal of getting an advanced degree for a long time, so achieving that feels very rewarding and fulfilling. Professionally, I expect this experience will enhance my ability to be an effective and engaging teacher for my students. I enjoy teaching history because of the focus on people: learning about how they lived, worked, what they believed, and more. I like thinking and talking about the similarities and differences between our modern culture and those of the past.”

This year Neff will take on the added responsibility of teaching a 12th grade World Religions course, while long-time instructor, Dayanand Diffenbaugh, is on sabbatical.

“Teaching World Religions is an exciting new challenge for me,” comments Neff. “I look forward to working with the seniors and discussing the different traditions and beliefs of people around the world. Dayanand established an emphasis on the students exploring and reflecting on their own personal beliefs and values within the larger construct, and I look forward to continuing that process and sharing my own experiences in spiritual growth. The task feels a little daunting, since there is so much material to cover and so little time to cover it all. My goal is to go over the main beliefs, practices, and issues in the five major world religions, while also allowing the students to have a personal experience examining their own views and beliefs about themselves and the world around them.”

Jivanti Rutansky, Head of Upper School at MMS, commented on the faculty achievements and changing roles: “Amy will bring her enthusiasm, passion for teaching and skill in building strong relationships to the World Religions program. Matt is devoted to his students, passionate about history and goes the extra mile to support his students’ success.”


Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, Marketing & Communications Manager 

Nestled among the redwoods on 355 mountaintop acres, Mount Madonna is a safe and nurturing college-preparatory school that supports students in becoming caring, self-aware and articulate critical thinkers, who are prepared to meet challenges with perseverance, creativity and integrity. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville.

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