We had the good fortune of connecting with Megan Patterson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Megan, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
Work life balance is something with which I have always struggled. I am extremely passionate about my career, and love working to help grow my school, be a leader in the outdoor-based education movement, and create a safe learning environment for twice-exceptional students where they can thrive. Being a single mother and having a never-ending list of work to do, I constantly feel guilty when I work in the evenings or on weekends (because I don’t have as much time with my son), and when I’m with my son outside of school hours (because I’m not working). I think the most vital thing I have learned in my quest to find better work life balance is how important it is to truly be present in what I am doing. I struggled for years with thinking about work while I was spending time with my son, family, and friends, or not being able to concentrate on work because I felt guilty about my son watching television or playing video games so I could get work done. I have learned that when I set boundaries and dedicate time to being fully present in my work, I am more productive and can put work away during the times I have dedicated to spending with my son, family, and friends.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Growing up, I felt different at school. I’d always been very social and had a lot of friends and found my place in sports, yet I knew that my brain worked in different ways than others, which often made me feel alone. I was diagnosed with dyslexia at a young age, and thought that this was the reason why I felt different. Yet all of my friends were the “smart” kids, and I knew that I connected best with them, even if I was never in any of their advanced classes. It wasn’t until I was tested in college that I started to understand my differences a little better. My evaluation in college showed that I was gifted in certain areas, but there were a lot of inconsistencies in my test results. At that time, they didn’t really understand what that meant, so again I was left wondering why my brain was so different from everyone else’s. These differences led me toward a career in education, as I wanted to help and support students who were not neuro-typical. I became a teacher so that I could help them understand who they are as people and learners. Yet as a teacher, much of what I was asked to do reflected a one-size-fits-all model that I knew was not effective for all learners. This was frustrating to me, and I wasn’t sure what to do with my concerns. Then, when I had my own child and quickly realized that his brain worked like mine, I knew that he would not succeed in a traditional school setting. I also saw that like me, he thrived in an outdoor environment. He became the inspiration for me to do more research about the early childhood Forest School model that I had learned about in my graduate program. After extensive research and visits to the few outdoor-based programs I could find in the United States, I knew this was a beautiful way of educating young children, and I decided to start one of the first outdoor-based education programs in Colorado, Worldmind Nature Immersion School. When my son was getting ready for kindergarten, I took him to an educational psychologist to help answer some of the questions I had about his learning style and needs, as he would be leaving our program soon to go to elementary school. It was after reading the results of his assessment that I started to fully understand why I always felt like I didn’t belong anywhere. His test results showed that he is twice-exceptional, which is what my results showed in college, they just didn’t have the label at that time. After speaking with the psychologist about elementary school options for him, I realized that he needed an outdoor-based school for twice-exceptional students, yet I couldn’t find any in Denver. It was then I knew that I wanted to expand Worldmind into serving elementary-school children. We now serve students ages 3 to grade 6 at Worldmind Prep, students ages 3 to 12 in our summer camps, and learners ages 6 to 12 in our enrichment programs. I am so excited about the work we are doing. At Worldmind Prep, students are with other twice-exceptional students, which is extremely helpful for their social-emotional and academic development. Our teachers are specifically trained to support twice-exceptional students, who are often far advanced in one area and require remediation in others. At Worldmind, we create a strong sense of belonging and acceptance for our learners. While we often face challenges from a society that does not yet fully understand our students’ needs, at Worldmind they are safe, respected and valued. We help our students succeed academically and socially, and I couldn’t be prouder of them or of what we’ve accomplished in a few short years.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
The city of Denver is a unique and vibrant place. My favorite spot is City Park. This is the first place I would take a friend. It has a beautiful view of the city with the mountains in the background. The second place would be the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Not only is this a great museum, it is a wonderful organization that is dedicated to helping people.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My son has always been my inspiration for starting and growing the school. He motivates and energizes me each day to continue to create a safe learning environment for twice-exceptional students. My executive advisor, Dr. Ali Hill, has been the most influential person in helping me gain the confidence I needed to reach my dreams and grow the school. My parents have always helped and supported me in everything I’ve done. They believed in me from the beginning, and gave me the financial resources to help make this dream a reality five years ago. Being an entrepreneur and leading the outdoor-based education movement has been extremely challenging, and there have been multiple times throughout this five-year journey that I have wanted to quit. Every time I think about giving up, a parent comes to me and shares all of the growth they have seen in their child as a result of being in the program. This beautiful community always lifts me up and encourages me to keep fighting.