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Edmond Memorial's Justin Merideth says work as special-education teacher keeps him centered

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS — At a time when many Class 6A head football coaches are moving into administrative roles and out of the classroom, Merideth holds one of the most challenging, time-consuming jobs in any school building.
by Scott Wright Published: November 1, 2012

photo - Edmond Memorial High School football coach Justin Merideth. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman
Edmond Memorial High School football coach Justin Merideth. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman

“Who he is in the classroom doesn't have to be who he is on the football field, and I think that helps him balance his day.”

The key for Merideth is his desire to teach, whether on the field or in the classroom.

“A kid is having trouble with something you might feel is fairly simple, and you say, ‘OK, I've got to help this kid get to this point,'” Merideth said. “It might seem like a simple step. But you just want to help those kids take that next step in their lives. Maybe it's reading or writing, something that a lot of us take for granted. But for them, that's pretty important.

“That's the moment that you've forgotten about football or all the paperwork, and you focus on that kid, because that's something that's important for life. And those moments happen daily.”

Merideth gives credit to Breck Hall — a man he hasn't seen in more than 15 years — for helping him find his passion to teach special education.

Hall was a senior on the football team at Northeastern State when Merideth was a freshman. Merideth knew he wanted to coach, but had no idea what teaching field to pursue, until Hall recommended special education.

“I observed a classroom for a couple days and thought it was pretty neat,” he said. “The more I was around it, the more I enjoyed it. I got more satisfaction out of it than being in other classrooms.”

Merideth and Moore began co-teaching together five years ago.

“To be honest, I was apprehensive at first,” Moore said. “My husband used to be a coach, so I know how time-consuming that is, and I wondered, is he going to have time for everything this job involves?

“But he's very good with kids, and he just jumps right in. I think the kids realize how much he cares about them. They see him in a whole different light than the football players do.”

At the same time, Merideth has qualities that benefit him in both areas.

“He has a good balance,” Edmond Memorial principal Debbie Bendick said. “He's really sensitive and perceptive. In football, you have to read a lot of silent dialogue. You have to look and interpret. And the same is true with our special-needs kids. You have to be able to watch them and figure out their issues and how to serve them better.”

There are days when Merideth thinks it would be nice to be out of the classroom, like so many coaches are now, affording him the opportunity to focus more on football and preparing his team.

But right now, the importance he finds in the classroom is too great to give up.

“It can be busy and it can be hectic during football season,” he said. “It was difficult at first, but I've grown to love it. I wouldn't have it any other way. Each day, you get something out of it.

“It keeps me centered, keeps me focused on what's really important in life.”

by Scott Wright
A lifelong resident of the Oklahoma City metro area, Scott Wright has been on The Oklahoman staff since 2005, covering a little bit of everything on the state's sports scene. He has been a beat writer for football and basketball at Oklahoma and...
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Putnam City West (1-8) at Edmond Memorial (3-6)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Where: Wantland Stadium, University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond

Scouting report: Edmond Memorial must win to have a shot at a playoff berth out of District 6A-4. The Bulldogs started the season 0-5, but they are 3-1 since. Putnam City West will attempt to end on a high note with its second victory in coach Rocky Martin's first season. The Pats have lost eight straight since a season-opening victory over Western Heights.


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