Tuesday, December 31, 2013

December Recap - The Year Ahead

For a year that has brought so many new experiences, I'm choosing to end it quietly.

Tonight, it's going to be me, Brad, and NYC via Ryan Seacrest's Rockin' New Year's Eve. The way I see it, the upcoming year is going to be one big celebration of sorts, so I can take the night off. It feels comforting just to be home with familiar things, and I know the upcoming year will often take me away from them. So I choose to wrap up this year in peace. When the clock turns to 12:00 in a few hours, I'll officially embark on my year, and the past two and-a-half months have prepared me for what's ahead.

December found me on a one-person mission to visit the rest of the schools in Martinsburg for Be the Difference WV. I don't want to abandon this project or my commitment to making it to all of the schools in Berkeley County this year, and I knew this month would be my "window" to record as many interviews as possible. I made it to every school in Martinsburg except one, leaving just the schools in the southern part of the county for the second semester. For those of you that haven't been to Berkeley County, we are small in square miles but exploding in term of population. Just 75 miles from Washington, D.C., many families relocate to our area of the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia so they can still commute to their jobs in the metro area. That means a lot of students, and a lot of schools. I still have about ten more schools to cover in our county, and hope to be including those from around the state in the very near future.
With Melany Delong at Burke Street Elementary

I did two radio interviews - one with Cecelia Mason for West Virginia Public Radio, and another with Marsha Chwalik for the Panhandle Spotlite on WEPM 1340 and WLTF 97.5. Marsha - who is a former English teacher for Berkeley County Schools - also had me record some intros ("This is Erin Sponaugle, and your listening to 97.5, W-L-T-F") for some of Prettyman Broadcasting's stations, so be listening for them in the upcoming year! What's ironic is that Cecilia Mason, who is the Eastern Panhandle Bureau Chief for WVPR, was a guest speaker for one of my journalism courses at Shepherd before I changed majors - and she remembered me! Funny how things come full circle :-)

With Marsha at Prettyman Broadcasting
I also was a part of the Martinsburg Chamber of Commerce Education Day for their Leadership Berkeley Class. I spoke to members of the community participating in this event at James Rumsey Technical Institute, a vocational school that serves students in Berkeley, Morgan, and Jefferson Counties. High school and post secondary students have the opportunity to learn a trade and certification in a number of fields, ranging from Automotive Technology to Graphic Design to Masonry. We are fortunate to have such an institution in our area that prepares students to become a part of the workforce.

Another part of Education day that I took part in was touring our county's beautiful new Spring Mills High School. At 250,000 square feet, it is projected to become the largest high school in West Virginia. The structure and technology in this facility are astounding, and it's exciting to see what our students will have access to as they are prepared for the future.

Spring Mills High School at night

I ended the day interviewing two teachers for Be the Difference WV at Winchester Avenue Elementary, a school in downtown Martinsburg that opened its doors in 1920. Looking at the portraits of the former principals lining the hallways as I left that day, I reflected on the variety of teachers and facilities we have in our area to serve our students and community. Whether it's a  technical school preparing students to assume a vocation, a state-of-the-art facility introducing high school students to the tools of tomorrow, or a small, urban school with a lot of history and devotion to setting the foundation for our youngest pupils, the commonality all have is the future. What goes on within our walls, wherever we teach, is just prelude for what is to come for our students. 

My month concluded with a personal trip to Austin, Texas, to celebrate the wedding of one of Brad's track and field teammates from Wheeling Jesuit University. It was great to see Jason and visit the capital of the Lonestar State. Within the next month, I will have traveled to two more state capitals - Charleston, for the State of the State address, and Phoenix, for the first meeting of all the state teachers of the year. 

With Brad at the reception
We fit in some time to visit the capitol building before we left. It's the largest state capitol in the United States and taller than the federal capitol building in Washington, D.C. There are also four floors of 700,000 square feet of office space below ground!

Beautiful Day!

Guess Who :-)

Star at center of Rotunda is eight feet!

Delegates chamber - tree has an ornament from each delegate's district

Austin skyline
...And now, I'm home, ending the year much differently than I started it. Next year is a blank slate that will quickly fill up with memories. I have more to share with you before we return from break about the programs and platforms I hope to enact in the upcoming year, but for now, I'll leave you with the message that drives what I resolve to accomplish in 2014. Happy New Year - and God bless you all!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

McDonald's Presentation

In between adventures the week before Thanksgiving, McDonald's of Martinsburg and the McDonald's Family Foundation came to Tomahawk on Wednesday to donate $1,000 to my classroom and treat our fifth grade to a magic show performed by Ronald McDonald. The students loved it (who doesn't want to start their day out with Ronald?), and once again I am tremendously grateful for the generosity that has been shown to my classroom and school.
Thank you, McDonald's!

Helping Ronald with his magic act

With Ronald and a representative from McDonald's
 I also had the chance to briefly speak to the students. I miss them - but I know they are in good hands. When you are away and come back to a school like Tomahawk, you realize what a wonderful place it is to teach - as in, you can tell when you walk in the front door. None of  what has transpired over this year this would have happened had I ended up anywhere else. You can watch my (very brief) message at this link.

The next few days will be almost normal. I get to be with my students for a few days, and in between will be doing two radio interviews - one for WV Public Radio, the other for our local station. I am also attempting to make it to all of the schools in Martinsburg for Be the Difference WV by our winter break. The month of January is going to be the busiest of all, so if I am to make it to all of the schools in Berkeley County as planned ( and add others) I have to stay on it! There are some other projects I am working on that I will be sharing in the next few weeks as well.

When I was "just" in the classroom, I kept a very full schedule and was never content - I had to keep creating, stretching. I "think" myself to sleep most nights :-) Now that I have this opportunity to have a classroom with "no walls" for a year, I want to see what I can possibly create that will bring joy and success to others. It's the least I can do for a profession that impacted my own life beyond anyone's imagination.