From Jane Austen to Salman Rushdie: Why Meredith March became an English teacher

English teacher Meredith March poses for a photo in her classroom in Dartmouth, where she has been working during distance learning. (Photo courtesy of Meredith March.)

New English teacher Meredith March—who teaches seventh grade English and AP Language and Composition—has known she wanted to be a teacher since she was five years old.

“I’ve always loved the idea of school itself,” March said. “When I was little, I used to make my siblings sit around the table and I’d pretend to boss them around.”

She remembers many moments that solidified her decision to teach, like the time her sophomore English Honors teacher graded her essay without leaving feedback or a score—just a simple smiley face.

I was upset,” March said. “I remember thinking to myself, ‘When I am a teacher, there is no way I am ever doing that.’”

Born in “the land of orchards, cows, and random suburbs”—also known as Modesto, Calif.—March grew up intrigued by British classics, her favorite book being Jane Austen’s “Persuasion.”

“I actually picked up the book when my high school went on a trip to London. There was this little bookshop, and it had a copy of a Jane Austen book,” March said.

This 10-day trip around London meant taking classes at the Globe Theater and touring surrounding cities. London was the first international city March remembers going to, and she loved seeing small parts of history embedded in the city, enjoying the feeling of being far from home.

Much of March’s sightseeing had ties to her love for Jane Austen, including the city Austen grew up in.

“I really loved going to Bath and to the Jane Austen Museum,” March said. “I was geeking out.”

March began reading classic literature in middle school, starting with Jane Austin’s “Pride and Prejudice.” She recalls pulling out the “fancy book” during silent reading.

As much as I legitimately enjoyed reading those sorts of books at a young age, I also liked feeling smart—and honestly kind of smug,” March said.

In college, March majored in English Literature, moving to Spokane, Wash. to study literature at Whitworth University. She was drawn to the perspectives and countries those pieces had to offer.

“I learned that different parts of history were not always what I thought they were,” she said.

After reading the novel “Wide Sargasso Sea” by Jean Rhys, March began her journey into the postcolonial literature field. Her two favorite professors included postcolonial literature in their English theory classes.

“As someone who grew up reading a lot of Jane Austen and other British authors,” she said, “it was good for me to see how the British Empire, for example, affected the world in positive and negative ways from different points of view.”

A 16-year-old March poses for a photo after her mother interrupts her reading of “Jane Eyre.” (Photo courtesy of Meredith March.)

She especially loves reading postcolonial literature from India. Because of the way he approaches history and political issues with magical realism, Salman Rushdie is one of her favorite authors.

Growing up in the Bay Area for a portion of her life as well, she knew many people who were Indian or of Indian descent but found it odd that Indian literature was never taught in school. Now that she is a teacher in the Bay Area, she aims to teach more than just white authors. Every year, she changes up her reading list a little in order to stay up to date.

“The world is big and there are so many stories to be told,” March said.

Her interest in reading spills over into her hobbies, most notably being her book club, which she started this spring. Consisting of March and teachers she has taught with, the group reads just about anything that interests them. They will even read young adult novels to better understand what their students are reading.

“Beneath the Scarlet Sky” sparked one of the best discussions in March’s book club.

“One of our members is from Switzerland, and she recognized a lot of the places in the book,” March said. “It was great to be able to hear her share her experiences.”

Though the group may be small, it is pleasant.

My book club is very chill,” March said. “We sit outside, have some cake, talk about the books we read and discuss what’s going on in our lives.”

March has always enjoyed reading books with others. Her first ever experience with a book club was when she was nine and joined a mother-daughter book club with families from her church and school.

“Books have a way of connecting people and creating shared experiences,” March said. “Whether the book is good or bad, you can still talk about it and enjoy that time together.”