Griffith Heads West to Pursue Career in Wilderness Therapy

Elizabeth Bolin, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

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Teachers come and go, but the imprint they leave lasts far longer than their time spent in the classroom. Megan Griffith,  Notre Dame’s popular French and theology teacher, has made the tough decision to depart from NDA and pursue a new career in a new state.

“I started thinking about other options I might want to pursue that were still similar to teaching but got me outside of a classroom setting,” explained Griffith. “I fell upon the area of wilderness therapy and was interested right away.”

Wilderness therapy caters to students who are struggling with matters such as addiction and anxiety and combines clinical therapy with camping and hands-on, outdoor experience. “It takes the part of teaching that I really love and that relationship of building and working through emotional things with students, and combines it with my adoration of being outside. I was like how did I not know about this sooner!”

At the start of June, Griffith will be traveling to her new home in Bend, Oregon, to embark on this new chapter of her career in the New Vision Wilderness Therapy program.

“My biggest role will be in relationship building and trust building.” Griffith shares that a majority of the students enrolled in the program are adopted and have a hard time forming healthy relationships.

“Part of it is to showcase what it means to have a caregiver and also how to be a caregiver themselves,” she explained.

Each group has a golden retriever and the students are taught canine handling and how to support another living creature.

Griffith will be working as a “leader” or camp counselor. “My experience working with adolescents, including ones with some pretty serious issues made me qualified.”

Griffith said that programs like New Vision look for teachers because of their ability to connect with students. “As much as I love the outdoors, my camp counseling experience is limited to working at a family camp at the nature center for two summers in college.”

Griffith is not sure how long she will stay with New Vision, but she intends on returning to school eventually. “I’m not sure what I want to study, but I would love to get a masters and a doctorate in religious studies, but I’m not exactly sure what I foresee myself doing after this.”

School is not the only thing Griffith’s future potentially holds. “Part of me wants to travel out West and open up my own coffee roastery, or maybe I will just kick it as a barista for a while.” Griffith has held a job at Luna Cafe even while teaching full time.

“The biggest reason this decision was difficult was because of my students.” Griffith admits she felt guilty when considering leaving the Academy. “I had conversations with other teachers in the building, like am I abandoning them if I do this? I couldn’t shake the sense that I was letting people down by leaving.”

Griffith will not forget NDA anytime soon, however.

“Some of my fondest memories would be my lunches with Madame, Mr. Konshak, Mr. Guyette and Mr. McGowan over these last two years. I don’t think I have ever laughed as hard as I have in some of those lunches,” reflected Griffith. “But the moments I love the most are not those of direct instruction but moments of conversation when a student asks something so poignant and there’s a visible click.”

Griffith enjoys watching curiosity bloom in students, even if it’s not necessarily curiosity in the topic at hand. “I’m not going to remember nailing a lesson plan five years from now, but I will remember when we started talking about Mormonism and landed on Satanism and cults.”

Griffith will miss the time she spent and the people she spent it with here at NDA and she wants her students to remember more than just conjugations from her class.

“If I were to say what I wish they remembered of me (other than my ridiculousness), I would hope that I succeeded in teaching them that everybody’s got a story that leads them to what they do. Whether you see it is immaterial, as long as you acknowledge that it’s there. With that being said, there’s no human being in the world that you can understand what’s going through their head, so you should keep that in mind in every moment of your life,” said Griffith.

“You just need to have openness to see that everyone has been shaped by the things that have been done to them before this. And if you keep that in mind it’s so much harder to hate people. When you step up close and look them in the eye… that’s much harder than being a part of a distant group. So step in close, look them in the eye, have a conversation and accept that what has led them to this moment is not the same as what has led you to this moment.”

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Griffith Heads West to Pursue Career in Wilderness Therapy