Reporting to work while at home means the dress code can get kind of lax.

And so K.D. Meucci, who teaches fourth grade at Franklin Elementary School in Bethel Park, was grateful that her principal, Teresa Doumont, advised her about an upcoming videoconference.

“There are going to be some people from admin on the call, so don’t look like a bum,” Meucci said she was told by the principal.

Some school administrators did join in, but Meucci’s departure from her usual sweatpants came in handy when she was greeted by Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Kevin Newman and members of the baseball team’s staff, plus the fan favorite Pirate Parrot.

They notified her that she had been named as All-Star Teacher by the Pirates, one of 18 educators in the region to receive the honor.

“And my students were on the call,” she said. “They were able to experience it with me, which was really incredible.”

If not for COVID-19, she would have been surprised in person during a school assembly. No matter how she learned about the honor, she receives a certificate of achievement, $100 Visa gift card and a $1,000 donation from the Pirates, the Grable Foundation and Chevron to be used in her classroom.

At some point after the Pirates return to playing at PNC Park, Meucci will be treated to a VIP Day, including a pre-game ceremony on the field. And she’s really looking forward to all of that.

“I love baseball. I grew up playing softball, and I still play pickup games in adult leagues when I can find them. So my kids and I have been to several Pirates games,” she said, plus adding of the team in Washington: “We go to Wild Things games.”

She was nominated for All-Star Teacher recognition by Doumont, who cited Meucci’s use of technology in her classroom to make learning fun and innovative for her students, and how she imparts the importance of continuous, lifelong learning.

With school closed and her students’ homes serving as classrooms, Meucci is continuing the fun and innovative components with ideas such as dressing up as “Star Wars” characters Princess Leia and R2-D2 on May 4, celebrated by fans of the mega-multimedia franchise as “May the Fourth Be With You” Day.

“I feel like during this time, it’s more about the emotional and social well-being of the kids than it is academic, at least in fourth grade, just making sure they’re OK. I’m also checking in and making sure my parents are OK,” she said about the students’ moms, dads and/or guardians, “because this is not easy on them.”

With two young children of her own, working at home isn’t all that easy for Meucci, either.

“But I also am loving this extra time with them,” she said.

A teacher for 15 years, the past five in Bethel Park, Meucci is a firm supporter of appreciation programs for educators.

“There are so many good teachers out there who maybe don’t get recognized for the amazing things they do,” she explained. “But the whole reason we go into teaching is not to be recognized, but to make a difference in the lives of our students.”

Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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