I’m in travel mode today. Headed to Dallas for the National Teacher of the Year Program Induction. It is the first meeting of the 2017 State Teachers of the Year. Over the next three days, we will learn lessons in leadership, storytelling, and communication from past Teachers of the Year and other national education leaders.
I have been told that the very best part of the week will be the relationships I’m about to begin with these teachers. I am convinced that this is true, because over the last four-ish months it already has proven so. The very best part of this year so far has been the teachers I’ve gotten to know around Washington State.
The intensity of this experience—how it stretches and challenges—bound me to my fellow Regional Teachers of the Year from the moment we met back in September. We came to the Leadership Retreat from different regional areas, grade levels, subject matter, and personal backgrounds. We left a family.
I left inspired. No, that doesn’t begin to cover it. I felt almost crushed by the honor of being selected from among them. I wished I could be them! I wished I had Mr. Gallagher as a science teacher, showing me the wonders of astronomy. I wished I had known Ms. Loftus, an Emotional-Behavioral specialist, when I was a young teacher. I would have soaked up her wisdom, energy, and positive outlook as I struggled to support challenging students.
That weekend was a crash course. It has only gotten better from there. Shortly after, I met a true kindred spirit in Northwest Washington’s 2016 Teacher of the Year. We make an unlikely pair, Michael Werner and I. He, a Swiss-born aeronautics mechanic turned high school mechanics shop teacher from Granite falls, and me, a Millennial farm kid turned elementary school teacher.
Our collaboration is called #360509K12. We envision globally-relevant, future-focused, authentic education for all kids. In every school district and every grade level. Already we have spent hours via phone and email, scheming. We’ve engaged our elementary and high school students in collaborative problem solving projects. We’ve taken turns driving across the mountains to spend days in each other’s classrooms.
We’re on the brink of something. There is a sense of urgency, that this thing, a big idea, is hidden just out of sight. Is it something curricular? A program model? Professional development? Advocacy? We impatiently wait to find out. But with every conversation and connection, the vision reveals itself a little more. We’re bringing in allies, and building a team. We hope you’ll join us when the time comes.
I expect I will find many more kindred spirits this week. I am curious to discover how these yet undiscovered friendships and partnerships will impact the course of my thoughts and actions well beyond 2017. My mind is anxious to continue learning.
I’m so thankful for this experience. But. There are over 60,000 teachers in Washington State. And my journey is unique to just one of us each year. There are so many teachers with so much potential. What if each of them had a supportive professional family that made them feel connected and empowered beyond their classroom and district, and even state? What impact could that have on our schools? On our students? On our country?