Getting to Know Bennett's Consultants: Meet Megan Pickette
I recently had the pleasure to talk with Megan Pickette, an education consultant on the Bennett team as well as an invaluable research analyst in our Education Research and Analysis department. Kindly listen in:
Annemiek: Please tell us about your professional and education background.
Megan: I received my BA from Bates College and an MBA from Boston College.
Professionally, I started my career in higher education development. Upon receiving my MBA, I worked in sales and marketing research in the pharmaceutical industry. Always having a strong interest in education, I volunteered frequently with both my alma mater and my children’s schools.
I am so happy that in my current position with Bennett International, I get to utilize my communication, organizational, and research skills, along with my commitment to education to work with families to help them find the best fit possible for their children.
Annemiek: In what places in the world have you lived, and what were those experiences like?
Megan: I was born in Chicago, Illinois, and like many of the families that Bennett International consultants work with, I have experienced relocations both as a child and adult. During my youth, after living in Chicago, my family went on to live in upstate New York and then New Jersey.
My father worked for an international division of a company, so growing up I had the opportunity to have frequent dinners with his colleagues from around the world. This gave me my first interest in travel and cultural exchange. I was able to expand these interests through a summer high school student exchange in the Netherlands. It was during this summer that I learned to appreciate and value the opportunity to dive deeper into another culture by living with a Dutch family.
In college, I was also able to spend six months living and studying in Sweden. Since college graduation, I have lived in Maine, Boston, New Jersey, Prague, Czech Republic, and now I am back in Boston again. Living in Prague when my children were younger will always be one of the most memorable times for me. My whole family loved the international community we lived in, becoming close with not only local Czech families but also friends from all around the globe.
Annemiek: How did you come to be associated with Bennett?
Megan: When I returned to Boston after living in Prague, I immersed myself in my new community and schools. It was through a connection at my son’s middle school that I became friends with a former School Choice Consultant. She learned of an opening at the company in late 2014, and the rest is history. I have enjoyed my 8 years with School Choice and now, Bennett International. (Bennett International Education Consultancy was founded in 1991, originally as Bennett Educational Resources. Acquired in 2009 by Elizabeth Sawyer, it became Bennett Schoolplacement Worldwide and has since evolved to become Bennett International Education Consultancy after the acquisition of School Choice International in 2018.)
Annemiek: We understand that you work with families who are relocating and seeking the optimal school placement for their children, and that you are also a research analyst with Bennett’s Education Research and Analysis group. Would you tell us a little about both of your roles?
Megan: Given my background in both research and project management, I feel so fortunate to be able to do both for Bennett International. As you note, my role as an Education Consultant allows me to work with families from around the world, helping them find the best educational fit for their children in their new location. I love connecting with these families during a time that can be challenging and helping to provide some needed support to ease their transition. So many families tell me the most important aspect of their move is finding the right school for their children, and I am honored to be able to assist them with such an important task.
In my role as a research analyst, I am able to use my analytical, creative thinking, and writing skills to aid corporations when they are considering a group move or need a global schooling question answered. In many ways it is similar to my work with families, but on a much larger scale.
Annemiek: Based on your experience, what should families keep in mind when they are relocating with school-age children?
Megan: Be open to a broad range of possibilities. While it is easy to want an exact replication of a child’s current educational setting, this is not always possible. For example, transferring from a local state school to an international school in another country may be different in many ways but still offer your child an excellent education while also providing them a chance to connect with and learn from other students from around the world. This global perspective cannot be taught at their current local state school and these experiences are a priceless gift you give your child when you are open to changing countries or even geographic areas within a country.
Annemiek: When a family visits the schools that are under consideration in the community to which they are relocating, what should they be particularly mindful of as they assess whether it’s a good fit - both for the child and the family?
Megan: I am always so pleased when a family can visit a school in person. While it is not always possible, and certainly I can help paint a picture if it is not an option, if a family has the opportunity, I always recommend it.
First and foremost, I encourage the family to spend time ahead of the visit thinking about what is important to them and their children. What are they looking for in a school? What type of environment does their child learn best in? I provide a list of sample questions too, and ask families to pick the key questions they would like answered on the tour.
Once at the school, I suggest asking these questions but also spending time observing and listening. What do the classrooms look like? Do a quick count of the number of children there. Are the classrooms loud or quiet? Do the children look engaged? Happy? Challenged? What about this is the best fit for their child? Some children love order and a traditional classroom structure, others thrive with a bit of chaos and each student working on their own or in a small group. There is no one approach that is better than another; just what works best for your child. While a school can describe itself through its website and written materials, seeing it in “action” can really provide the information needed to make a final decision.
Annemiek: We understand that you were active in the Parent Teacher Organization at your children’s school, serving as the president for a period of time. Would you suggest that families new to a school community become involved in their children’s school PTO?
Megan: In a short answer, yes. While of course, taking on a more involved leadership role may not be everyone’s cup of tea, attending meetings or events is a great way to learn more about your child(ren)’s new school and may offer you a way to meet other adults in your new community as well. I always recall being told when I first moved to Prague that for the first year in a new location, it is important for both parent and child to say yes as much as possible to any school event or social invitations. It allows you to learn about your new community and helps you find the connections that will be meaningful to you.
It was actually through my son’s middle school PTO that I met the friend I mentioned earlier in our conversation, who connected me with my current job at Bennett International, so you never know what may happen through the people you meet.
Annemiek: What’s your favorite aspect of the work you do, both with relocating families and in your research role?
Megan: My favorite aspect is being able to help a family (or a corporation) find the best solution possible, whether it be for an individual child’s school or to allow a company to know what educational options will be available for a group of employees moving to a new location.
Annemiek: How do you like to spend your free time?
Megan: Probably not a surprise—I love to travel, and for me, part of the fun is both the planning and the actual trip itself. I love learning about a new location and sorting out details that will help me, my husband, and my children experience it to the fullest during the travel.
I also enjoy taking long walks around the Boston area with friends as well as hiking in the White Mountains of Maine and New Hampshire. Reading is another interest. I always cherish visiting with family and friends.
Annemiek: And finally, this is a question we like to ask all of our colleagues: If you had a year’s sabbatical and could go anywhere in the world, where would you go, and why?
Megan: I would love to go back to Japan. My family and I had the opportunity to spend two weeks there in the summer of 2018. I realize I was only able to see a small portion and would love the opportunity to go back and really be able to travel the whole country, see it in its different seasons, and gain a deeper understanding of its people and culture. Loving the cuisine is an added bonus, of course.
Annemiek: Thank you, Megan, for a delightful chat.
Megan: My pleasure; thank you.
By Annemiek Young
To read more about our top-flight team of consultants, please see here.
Bennett International Education Consultancy works directly with hundreds of families each year across the globe. We support families by helping them make informed decisions about the best-fit schools for their children; with our guidance, they secure placement in preschools, private day schools, public/state schools, boarding schools, colleges & universities, including schools with particular programs, such as special needs support.