Article image

by Janis Fontaine

October 23, 2002

Teacher, swimmer and role model

Meg Reller leaves home each day at 4:30 a.m. By choice, Reller, a 17-year veteran of Palm Beach County schools, swims each day before arriving at school at 7:15 a.m.

"Swimming is the love of my life, and I still swim competitively. I swam 12 miles around Key West in five hours." As one of Jupiter High School's swim coaches, she's setting a fine example.

"Teaching high school is not horrible," she says. "Maybe it's because I like what I teach. It's challenging. But if you think you can just go be a teacher these days and teach the facts, you're dreaming. You have to counsel them, befriend them."

Reller teaches health science, including a medical skills elective that she loves. "It's an elective that offers honors credit, and every student needs a vocational credit to graduate, so I get top-notch students, kids who want to be there."

Her classroom, she says, “is a safe place. We hardly have any confrontation. This morning in class, I heard this big touch football player say, 'You know what our class goal is? We gave to get along with everybody.' He's right,” she says. "If you want to be successful you have to know how to get along with other people. You might as well get it now, instead of waiting until you're 40 or 50 years old. Think how far ahead you'll be!"

Reller is an advisor for The Youth Congressional Awards. This year, seven of the students she coached received a bronze medal. "I have the easy part," she says. "It's an award to challenge youth, set goals and initiate goals." The awards focus on four areas: volunteerism, personal development, physical fitness and an exploration or expedition, which is generally a camping trip to an unfamiliar part of the country. Students must volunteer 100 hours, and many of them became involved with Reller's pet charity, the Juvenile Diabetes Association. Together they recruited more than 100 students to walk during the JV fundraiser, raising more the $6,000. They also won first place for their T-shirt design.

"They got so much out of it because they raised so much money knowing that it was going to help students they knew."

Reller sets a goal for herself each school year.

"By the end of the year, I want to know about their family, who they live with, who their friends are, what makes them happy, so I can always mention something when I say goodbye after class, to leave them with a positive feeling."

Joyce Baila, who has twin sons at Jupiter High, says Reller never seems to get the kudos she deserves. "I think her continuous devotion and passion all show she really cares about kids as people." Reller wants her students to be “okay” with themselves. “It is key,” she says, "If they have the confidence in themselves, they can meet any challenge.”

Palm Beach Post Newspaper, October 10, 2002.