I calculated today that there are 34.5 school hours with students between me and summer. I shared this with my students, and they seemed cheered at the prospect. Five and a half more days, 34.5 hours.
I was blessed tonight to attend a Teacher of the Year honors night for a dear friend of mine from church who teaches in a much larger neighboring school district. She was chosen as Teacher of the Year for her middle school campus, and was among the 48 celebrated from all the campuses in the district. It was held at the local civic and events center, and was a really neat event. Each teacher put together a display showcasing aspects of their profession, and was introduced by name when he or she entered the ballroom. The district then announced ten finalist teachers, and then the Elementary and Secondary teachers of the year, who got the opportunity to speak. I’d like to share some of what I gained from this exceptional evening.
Each of the finalists had quotes read about them written by their students, and a (occasionally awkward) video of their respective principals congratulating them on a job well done. The two winners had video interviews played with several of their students and parents, which were exceptionally touching. The secondary teacher of the year was a math teacher at one of the local middle schools. One of the students who was interviewed on tape said that not only did Mr. M teach him algebra, he also taught him what it meant to be a man. A parent from the Elementary Teacher of the Year’s class said that her son had spent all of last year begging daily to stay home, and that not once since being placed in her class had he tried to miss school. It was inspiring to be among so many role models of my newfound profession.
The most valuable part of the evening were the words from the two 2013 teachers of the year and the two new 2014 teachers. One of last year’s winners described how she began fifth grade two weeks after moving to the US and not speaking a word of English, with a little triangle next to her name on the roster which designates a student as “At-risk” for academic failure, behavioral issues, and eventually, dropping out. She spoke of how no other job in the country takes people who come in with paperwork declaring their potential failures and views them as potential successes rather than turning them away. While I’ve lost a few of my “at-risk” students this year for various reasons, I have plenty who have that triangle next to their name who I know are going to make it.
Last year’s secondary teacher of the year quoted author Marianne Williams:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God; your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us. It is not just in some of us, it is in everyone, and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
This year’s elementary teacher of the year was a second career teacher – started at 42 years old after two decades in banking – and through her tears of joy described her teaching philosophy as “wanting to be the kind of teacher she wanted her own children to have.”
The secondary teacher of the year impressed me by vehemently thanking God and Jesus Christ for His sacrifice and constant patience and forgiveness of his follies. He also thanked his students for “listening to him sometimes but putting up with him all the time.” It was easy to see how this man was beloved by his students and an incredible role model for his campus.
I am always impressed with the level of humility in the best teachers of the profession. That is one thing I as a teacher definitely lack, and as a person have always struggled with. I love my job – even when I’m counting down the hours until summer – and I certainly value the mentorship of the amazing group of people into whose midst I’ve been dropped into. My school is filled with fantastic teachers who inspire me and guide me and teach me. At the same time, I think I may be a little too proud of the job I do, and am often drawn to dwell more on my successes that I initiated and purposefully forget the places I have failed.
While our district doesn’t have any comparable event to this one (we only have five campuses after all – it’s less impressive to be the Secondary Teacher of the Year out of 40 teachers rather than 400), this evening did inspire me to look forward to continually improving as a teacher. I’ve been reflecting a lot on my future in education – my current plans are to pursue a masters in school counseling in hopes of eventually having a side business doing college and career counseling for high school students. I felt the superintendent’s advice to continue to impact and inspire those with whom I work, and to be thankful for all the role models, like my friend who invited me to share in her own teaching success. I wonder if I could somehow convince my administration to give me professional development credit for this evening; I certainly felt professionally developed!
|My friend and me at her Teacher of the Year celebration (oh yes, and I’m 31 weeks today!)|