Home Education and Careers Unique mission of Nativity Prep in Wilmington draws Shaquona Meyers back in...

Unique mission of Nativity Prep in Wilmington draws Shaquona Meyers back in the principal’s office

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Shaquona Meyers returns to Nativity Prep as the new principal. Dialog photo/Mike Lang

WILMINGTON — Nativity Preparatory School made such an impression on Shaquona Meyers when she taught there that she felt drawn back to accept the principal’s job this summer. Meyers spent a year down the street teaching at St. Elizabeth School before this opportunity arose, and it was something she could not pass up.
“What they do — their focus on community and their mission — is so powerful and it’s so worth it,” she said recently.

Meyers, 37, has taught at a number of schools, and she says Nativity and St. Elizabeth stand out among them, as does St. Frances Academy in Baltimore. Those are the three that she said she constantly talks about.

“I think that those schools mean so much to me because of what they do and what they stand for, and how they bridge the gap of what it looks like to be a practical Christian practicing your faith,” she said.

Nativity Prep is a middle school for boys started in 2003 by the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales. It does not charge tuition and offers small class sizes and an extended academic day. There is also a summer program, and the students’ families are expected to be a part of the school experience. Currently, there are 42 boys enrolled, with a capacity for 60, but Meyers would like to see them extend that to perhaps 70 while continuing to honor the mission of small class sizes and individualized attention.

“I think there are so many boys who deserve the opportunity to experience something new, and I think this place represents all those wonderful opportunities that await them,” she said.

Her major focus this year, she continued, is teacher support and education. She would like the teachers to “have agency” when it comes to creating curriculum and programs.

“Students spend most of, if not almost all of, their day with their teachers,” she said. “Their teachers are not only their educators, but their counselors in some sense. Because they have such a direct connection with their students, it’s important to be able to listen to them about what they see, what they experience, and how we can improve the program.”

Everyone at Nativity is excited to resume a “normal” education after having parts of the last three academic years affected by the coronavirus pandemic, but Meyers said the changes caused by covid have given educators an opportunity to examine how schools do their job.

She said she wants to look at the impact of what educators and schools do on the spiritual and emotional health of students. She doesn’t want to forget that a student is a whole person.

Meyers grew up in central New Jersey and attended the University of Delaware, where she took all of her core courses in education before earning a degree in English. She entered the AmeriCorps after graduating and was working locally on programs for women before her supervisor told her that St. Frances was looking for teachers. The supervisor added that she had already sent Meyers’ resume to the principal.

Meyers wasn’t sure about being a teacher, but she was glad she followed up with St. Frances.

“It was just fantastic. Being there just sparked or reignited my faith in a way that I never knew that I needed,” she said.

Family circumstances took her back to New Jersey, and a desire for a new start resulted in a return to Delaware, where Meyers taught in the Christina School District before her first stint at Nativity.

She has a lot of activities to keep her busy when she has time, including visiting her family and being an aunt to her nieces and nephews. Meyers, a member of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Bear, also dotes on her golden doodle, Wonder, who is well-known in her New Castle neighborhood.

“People don’t even know me,” she said. “They know Wonder.”

She also likes to make quilts and has a goal of giving one to her family members, then adding on as they mark milestones in their lives. The quilts, she said, are a way of documenting one’s history.

“I think there is something powerful in us being able to tell our stories and share our stories.”