Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Rewind Wednesday: Stonewall Resort and Greenbrier

Today was like taking one giant deep breath, then slowly exhaling. It's finally Thanksgiving Break. The past two months have been a rush. I have much to be thankful for this holiday, and I am deeply grateful for a chance to relax with family for a few days.

Last week was the first of the many times I will travel the Mountain State this year. That being said, these were already events that I had scheduled to participate in prior to October 9th. They just held greater significance for me now, because they became a part of my year representing the teachers of Wild, Wonderful, West Virginia.

Last Friday I traveled to the Stonewall Resort in Weston for the Instructional Materials Criteria Committee. It is located within the Stonewall Jackson Lake State Park in Lewis County. Although the location was peaceful, my mind was split thinking about my presentations for the West Virginia Reading Association (WVRA) conference that was less than a week away. I stayed up late every evening making sure I had everything ready, because the turnaround time I had to get everything together when I came home was, oh, a day-and-a-half.

Oh, Deer!

Old Sorrel, named after Stonewall Jackson's horse

Beautiful lake at Stonewall
Monday evening I returned home, for, as I said, a day-and-a-half. In between, I was honored by the McDonald's Family Foundation, which I will share in another post (stay tuned). Wednesday afternoon, it was back in the car with some fellow teachers to attend the WVRA Conference at The Greenbrier in White Sulfur Springs. It was originally built in 1858, and became known as The Greenbrier in 1910. Twenty six U.S. presidents have stayed here. The resort was an army hospital during World War II, and also interred foreign diplomats who were considered a threat to the U.S. during the war. There's also a bunker at The Greenbrier that was designated to house members of Congress in an emergency during the Cold War. It's positively stunning - larger than life. Here are some - some! - of the pictures I took while there.
Hotel Room Hallway 
Oh, Christmas Tree...

Main Lobby

Main Lobby

Entry Way

All decorated for Christmas

One of the many beautiful rooms
Chandelier from "Gone with the Wind"

Spring House

Night View

In addition to absorbing the surroundings :-), I also attended the conference and did two presentations, one on integrating "The Great Bridge Building Contest" (a children's book on the building of the Philippi Bridge) into the curriculum, and another on using Web 2.0 tools in reading and writing instruction. I was also honored to be recognized by the First Lady of West Virginia, Joanne Tomblin, during her remarks in the closing general session.

By the time we returned home Friday, I felt like I had accomplished a lot - and my body was paying for it. One thing that I have learned very quickly this year is that I have to, I must, take care of myself. As teachers, we naturally push ourselves to the limit - staying up late, gobbling our lunch in record time (and amazingly not choking)...and holding it to go to the bathroom on numerous occasions. I've been doing this for years, and now...well, it's either put on the breaks or crash.

That being said, I was recharged enough by Monday to interview Rhonda Foreman and Elaine Unnone, teachers at Martinsburg High School, for Be the Difference WV. You can view their episode by clicking on this link.

And's time to rest and give thanks. I have been blessed beyond measure this year, to the point where there is simply no way I can repay what I have received. So when you can't repay it, you pay it forward - and I intend to, in a multitude of ways.

Right after I breathe in, and breathe out.
One last picture!!!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Berkeley County Schools Community Celebration

I don't sleep well in hotel rooms, at least on the first night. This could be a long year.

As I try to bring myself to the point where it doesn't matter what the bed feels like or who walks by my room, I'll write about the awesomeness that was Tuesday evening. Why yes, I do use and like the word "awesomeness." It's zippy, peppy, and all encompassing  of an experience that is/was completely positive. So, whenever I experience something that blows me away, "awesomeness" it is, no matter who I am or what I become.

On Tuesday, Berkeley County Schools and the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Chamber of Commerce held a Community Celebration in my honor at the Holiday Inn. A special thanks goes to Margaret Kursey, Elaine Bobo, and the BCS communication department for planning a very thoughtful evening. It is very humbling to have people go out of their way to do very nice, beautiful things for you - and it's quickly risen to a point where there is no way I can make it up to anyone for their generosity. It was a beautiful event with members of the community and many of my closest colleagues and family members.

With Heather and Katie, the best teacher friends ever

My cousins, Kaitlyn and Andrea

My in-laws, Brad, and parents

More teacher friends Nicole and Jessica

Finally! A Lewis picture :-)

My Tomahawk Family

I was honored to have several people speak on my behalf Tuesday night - and to share the stage with Beverly Hoffmaster, the 1992 West Virginia Teacher of the Year, as well as Michael Funkhouser, last year's teacher of the year who made the trek to Martinsburg for the second time in less than a week. I know that Hardy County's not on the other end of the state, but I really appreciate it that he has taken the time to support me over the last month.

2013, 2014, 1992

At the end, I was able to say a few words about my goals for the year and a little about who I am and how I got here. The more I watch myself speak, the more I notice things I need to "fix" - so I guess my documenting of my year serves a dual purpose. Speaking, no matter how you try to spin it positively, is something I have to work at - and I know it. I've come a long way though, and only those that know me best know how far. You can hear my speech by clicking on this link.

...And now, I think I typed my way into a foggy-enough haze that I just might sleep for a few hours. I've got a busy week ahead - I'm definitely going to need it.

Special Visitors

Boom! Boom! Boom! That pretty much sums it up.

The past three weeks have been like the finale of a Fourth of July fireworks display. I've always had multiple events and/or projects going on at once. Sometimes, I wonder why I do it to myself, or why things seem to gravitate in my direction. Now I know why. No words can describe the amount of multitasking you suddenly acquire when you become teacher of the year. If you aren't someone who can concentrate on seemingly hundreds of "to dos" on a list that grows by the minute, you become one fast...and I am eternally grateful for every responsibility, task, and hurdle that has been put in my way in the past eleven years, because without that kind of "boot camp," I wouldn't be prepared for this.

...And, although it's a lot to absorb and navigate, I do feel prepared. It's still surreal that I'm here, but I've accepted that this was meant to happen - and I hope I can do some amazing things with it.

So what's been up? Well, three weeks ago (unbelievable it's been that long), I was actually having a fairly normal school week. I was back in the classroom with my students, just being Mrs. Sponaugle. Then Tuesday evening the phone rang. Richard Belisle from the Herald-Mail (a newspaper in Hagerstown, Maryland, that covers our bordering Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia) was calling to arrange a time to not only interview me, but also my students and see my classroom. He wanted to know if he could come Thursday or Friday, so of course I said Thursday (because if you have ever been in a school on a Friday you perfectly understand why). As soon as I hung up, I gasped.

Thursday was Halloween - and if you have ever been in a school on Halloween, you also perfectly understand why.

I'm human. I'm a teacher, with flaws and positives like everyone else. So the immediate thought of having a reporter AND photographer come to my classroom on the most sugar-infested, crazy behavior inducing holiday of the year was a little, shall we say, spooky. However, it all went just fine. In fact, I think it took the focus off of "What are going to dress up as tonight?" and put it on to "Did he take your picture? Did he ask you a question? He took MY PICTURE!! He asked me LOTS of questions!!" My students loved getting to talk to a reporter and being photographed. Although not every picture or quote they gave made it in the paper (we had to have a discussion about how writing a newspaper article and editing works), they clearly enjoyed being celebrities. You can read the article at this link.

The following Thursday, we had a special visit from Michael Funkhouser, the 2013 West Virginia Teacher of the Year. Michael is an instructional coach at East Hardy High School. I appreciate that he took time to come up to our school on a rainy day to meet with my class and let them ask him questions. They all remarked what a very nice man he was after he left - and I would have to agree. He is a wonderful, sincere person - and it's pretty remarkable when a classroom of ten-year-olds picks that up in a matter of minutes.
Mr. Funkhouser
In between, I also taped some interviews for Be the Difference WV at Eagle School Intermediate and Opequon Elementary. I am trying to double up and get as many schools in Martinsburg covered by the end of December, because my schedule for January is almost solid. December, not so much at this point. Then again, I haven't checked my e-mail today yet.

It's strange being out of the classroom so much. In past years, I am hardly ever out - and then, it's only been for school business with two or three exceptions. Being a teacher is part of my identity, my daily routine. I'm getting ready to leave for the Stonewall Resort in Walkersville to work on the instructional criteria for English Language Arts, then next Thursday and Friday I'm at the West Virginia Reading Conference. Those are things I had planned to take on before this happened, but it's very much a preview of what's to come. I have wonderful, capable people who can step up and take over for me, but "fading" out of my role at Tomahawk, although temporary, makes me a little sad. I mean, I love teaching there - and suddenly I'm everyone's teacher, with a much larger classroom. Which means my role in my own classroom, my little spot on Earth, takes a back seat.

Now, I'm the special visitor.