Mother, local preschool owner and second-year MPA student Megan Weber manages to strike work-life balance

Daniel Kington
September 8, 2016

Megan Weber, 2nd year MPA student Megan Weber, who graduated from Antioch College in 2002 with a  degree in early childhood education, had no intentions to enter the  world of administration. Fate took her in that direction quite  unexpectedly when River Valley Community School, where she had  been teaching preschool, closed in 2004.

 “When it closed, the parents rallied, and they convinced me to open  my own school,” Megan, a second-year MPA student, said.

 She opened Sycamore Run Early Childhood Center in 2005, and  carries out a host of administrative functions, from accounting and  building maintenance to mentoring teachers and writing the  curriculum.

 At the same time, though, she is not fully in charge. Both students
 and teachers share responsibility for the school’s operations:
 Students select themes for their own exploration and teachers are shareholders in the business. They not only receive a portion of the profit, but also have direct control over what happens at the school.

“There’s generally a super high turnover rate in this field because you get little pay and no respect,” Megan said. However, at Sycamore Run, teachers tend to remain longer; many teachers on staff have been there since the time that the school opened. Megan said she attributes the school’s teacher retention to the power that the teachers have over their own work.

That level of cooperation and power-sharing not only benefits Sycamore Run as a business, she said, but also fosters relationships and a sense of community among teachers and students alike.

“The kids who were in my first class are now in high school, and I still consider them my friends,” Megan said. “Having those relationships forever is really cool, and I think that’s the most important part of what I’m doing.”

Relationships also brought Megan to the Voinovich School. Among her students at River Valley years ago were the children of Judy Millesen, an associate professor at the Voinovich School, and Faith Knutsen, associate director of TechGROWTH Ohio. When she became interested in graduate school, she knew she could contact her old friends and mentors for guidance – which led Megan to where she is now.

Megan’s work at the Voinovich School compliments her direction at the preschool, providing her with theories to better understand both her educational work and her career operating a small business within a portion of the private sector that’s regulated heavily by the public sector.

“I already understand the practice, and the theory sometimes fits,” Megan joked.

The most valuable aspect that the Voinovich School has provided her career, however, is the practical skill-set necessary to run her school more effectively.

“I’ve always been really anti-technology, but I’ve recently gotten hip to all of these things that are so much more efficient as ways of communicating and ways of organizing time,” Megan said. “Technology is huge, and that’s probably the number one thing that the Voinovich School has brought to my preschool experience.”

As if balancing her job at Sycamore Run and her full load of graduate classes weren’t tricky enough, Megan is also a consultant trainer for the Corporation for Ohio Appalachian Development (COAD), the manager of pitch competitions led by TechGROWTH Ohio, Ohio University’s Innovation Center and the Center for Entrepreneurship — and a new mother.

Megan cites her “insane amount of energy” as the driving force that allows her to do so much.

“I just love everything that I do, and I’m into it,” Megan said. “Plus, I think I get more energy out of doing more stuff. It’s sort of a self-replicating thing.”

Despite Megan’s seemingly endless resources of energy, however, not much could have prepared Megan for the challenges of having her own child.

“I’ve been taking care of other people’s babies for a long time, but nothing prepared me for this,” Megan said. “I was like, ‘Oh, I got this, this is fine, I know what I’m doing,’ and then I had a baby and I went around apologizing to everyone I know because I understood how little I had appreciated what they were doing and how hard it really is.”

Megan’s child is now 17 months old, officially entering the toddler phase.

“Toddlers are crazy. It’s practice for teenagers, because they’re like, ‘I’m going to do whatever I want, and I’m going to smile and look cute, but I’m going to do it again!’”

Luckily, Megan has a support structure that makes everything feel more possible.

“I’m super blessed,” Megan said. “I have easily 20 solid people in my life that are all there for me. When I freak out, I have people I can go to and they will help me.”

And, somehow, amid all that she does, Megan also finds time to relax.

“I wouldn’t be able to live without relaxing,” she said. “I need to balance myself so that I feel like I’m taking in as much as I’m putting out.”  Megan also added, “I don’t sleep very much, though. You don’t need that much sleep, really, as a being. I feel like if you get more sleep than you need it slows you down. Of course, I got like two hours last night and that was not enough.”

Megan is also moved by the inspiration she takes from everything she does. Take her work with the pitch competitions, for example: “Actually watching the pitches just blows me away,” Megan said. “The ideas people have are just so awesome, and so exciting. It just made me so proud to be a part of this place because there are so many smart people doing the coolest stuff. I just love getting to hear what people are into.”

In fact, Megan loves her work at the Ridges so much, that she would hate to leave upon graduation. That said, she doesn’t know quite what the future has in store for her.

“I’m a person who believes very much that my path is already out there for me and I’ll know when I’m about to make a turn,” Megan said. “I came here wanting to do something, but I have so many ideas, and it’s hard for me to narrow.”

Regardless of whether Megan continues work at the Ridges, Megan has already had an impact on the Voinovich School and the people around her.

“When Megan stepped up to take over our failing private school and turn it into something new, she stuck to this difficult and ultimately successful effort with this determined combination of love and aplomb,” said Knutsen, who is now Megan’s graduate research advisor. “Today, I’m more than delighted to collaborate with Megan in this new phase of her life as a second-year MPA student.”

Megan is likewise appreciative of the relationships she’s made with everyone at the Voinovich School.

“I would like to say thanks to everyone that I’ve met,” Megan said. “I’ve been in a really insulated world for a long time, and I have these great loving relationships with people, but I didn’t realize how cool other people were outside of that. I just keep being so blown away by how smart and nice everyone is.”