20 Under 40: Meg Fahrenbrook

Meg Fahrenbrook | 36

The Episcopal School of Dallas
Education: Wheaton College

As both the assistant head of middle school and history at The Episcopal School of Dallas and a course instructor for the nonprofit Students Shoulder-to-Shoulder, it’s safe to say that Meg Fahrenbrook is a born educator. Her journey started in high school, working as a nanny for two young children. “The experience gave me the confirmation that I love being around children. I love learning beside them, and that I wanted to pursue a degree in education.”

Her decision to work with nonprofit organizations came from her summer teaching English to students in a rural community in South Africa. She remembers being jittery with excitement and nerves and just knew that this is what she wanted to do. She wanted to help others. Meg also is growing her own nonprofit Expeditions of Hope, for which she hopes to establish in partnership with a Nepali nonprofit sustainably run medical clinics in Nepal’s remote communities in the next few years. It’s tough work, but her husband Michael, rescue dog Aster, a “total mutt,” and her students make it all worth it.

Q: If you could, what advice would you have for your teenage self and why?
A: Don’t be so serious about everything – lighten up, keep an open mind, and be open to new things and new people. I was a pretty serious high schooler, and because of that, I didn’t branch out as much as I could have or should have. I would tell myself to have an open mind in order to embrace new experiences and new people.

Q: What, to date, has been your most rewarding accomplishment in both your professional personal life?
A: Having the opportunity to work as a teacher and now the Assistant Head of Middle School that I attended and graduated from is incredibly rewarding. Alums of any institution carry within them the heart of the place, its mission, and vision. It is an honor for me to get to carry forward the light and heart ESD, who we are and our purpose as a school, in the work that I do. I am so thankful for and proud of our work in Nepal and the partnerships we have developed with such capable and visionary Nepalese non-profit leaders. The process my husband and I went through of envisioning how to sustainably run medical clinics in a remote community of the Everest region and then developing the needed partnerships with doctors, nurses, and other non-profits has been
challenging and yet rewarding. In a relatively short amount of time, we have connected with several other excellent non-profits that are doing good work in the same region, and we have been able to collaborate on different projects, leaning on the expertise each group has to offer. We are most proud of how we did higher level screenings this year (cataract screenings, heart screenings, etc), and have been able to get patients the care they need. All 44 patients who were identified as needing cataract surgery were transported to a cataract clinic where they received the care they needed. Those 44 people’s quality of life has drastically improved. Several patients with heart conditions were transported to and from Kathmandu for the care they needed. It is an honor getting to be a part of such transformative work.

Did You Know?
Meg is a member of the Church of Incarnation, where she served as a member of the Vestry for three years, She and her husband teach a Sunday School class on marriage and help run the pre-marriage course.

Q: What was your first job and what did you learn from it?

A: My first “job” in high school was as a nanny for two young children two summers in a row. The experience gave me the confirmation that I love being around children, I love learning beside them, and that I indeed wanted to pursue a degree in education. Being a nanny also taught me the importance of and value of being flexible, patient, and calm. My first job out of college was as a sixth grade Reading and sixth-grade History teacher at The Episcopal School of Dallas. Being my first year of teaching, it was a year filled with learning and growth. The way the position worked is that I taught two sections of the class while another teacher taught three. That was an incredible way to begin my teaching career because I was mentored by two experienced and masterful teachers who taught me the importance of collaboration as well as the importance of being willing to try new things. Their willingness to try a new way of teaching a lesson showed me that a teacher is never done honing and perfecting their skills.

Q: Where do you see yourself and/or your career 10 years from now?

A: In ten years, I see our non-profit Expeditions of Hope firmly established and operational in fundraising and in organizing and running multiples trips and clinics a year in Nepal and in other locations we identify and build partnerships with. As far as my career goes, I hope to be a division head at a private school with the attitude and mindset of always looking to grow, learn, and develop my leadership skills.

Q: What was your “lightbulb moment” that lead you to your career?

A: The summer between my junior and senior years in high school, I went on a month-long service trip to South Africa where our group taught English to local students in a rural community. We were in charge of planning English lessons and then teaching middle school students. I will never forget that first day of class and being up in front of the students for the first time. I was jittery with excitement and nervousness. I had always wanted to be a teacher, but it was at that moment when I was in front of a group of students that I thought to myself, I want this. I want to be a teacher, I want to work with young people, and I need a degree in education to help get me there.

Q: Which leadership skills were the most challenging for you to develop and why?

A: As I reflect on what leadership skills were most challenging to develop, one particular experience within my first few years of teaching sticks out in my mind. It was in that experience that I learned the importance of and value of being respectfully assertive as well as being confident in that and comfortable with such a direct approach. As a young teacher, it took practice to learn how to talk directly about topics and subjects that had the potential to cause conflict with others. Learning how to be assertive in those moments while showing respect and grace were challenging, but done with an open heart and grace, it is an important skill for leaders to possess in order to promote growth.

Q: What do you love about your community and why?

A: We live in Midway Hollow, and what I love most about our community is how engaged people are with the community. The care and concern that I see my neighbors show towards others makes me proud to be a part of this community. We were part of the area impacted by the Atmos Gas emergency last February, and the way that the community rallied in that crisis to help others was inspiring.

Q: What is your favorite local store?

A: It’s not necessarily a store, we love the restaurant Mi Camino

Q: Where is the best place in the Park Cities or Preston Hollow for a power lunch – what do you order?

A: I get to spend my lunches with our awesome Middle Schoolers, and so the best place for a power lunch is ESD’s North Dining Room on Thursdays with ESD’s Middle School Student Council.

Q: If there was ONE thing that you could change or improve in the community, what would it be?

A: Honestly, it would be to implement street repair. There are some roads in the area that are in bad shape, and I would love to see our city government make improving our roads a major focus.

Q: If you could buy a book (or rent a movie) for your neighbor, what would it be and why?

A: “Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?” by Seth Godin because it focuses on what value you bring to your company and the potential you have to make a lasting impact with the work you do. It encourages you to tap into your creative and artistic side for problem-solving and for growing your work and capacity.

Q: If someone made a movie of your life, what would the title be and who would play you?

A: “Tales of a Globe-Trotting Educator” Actress: Zooey Deschanel

Q: If we looked at your social media accounts, what would we learn about you?

A: You would learn that I absolutely love my dog and that I use my social media as a platform for sharing about the awesome things happening in our Middle School as well as the work we do in Nepal. You would see that women’s rights, education, and empowerment matter to me and that I enjoy reading
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