Friday, January 31, 2014

The Rest of January in Review

In between the State of the State address, the press conference, and a week in Scottsdale, Arizona, I stayed busy.

After returning from the State of the State, I presented to the Sunrise Rotary at the Holiday Inn in Martinsburg. I shared my experiences in the classroom, fellowships and activities that have taken me to other parts of the country, and my current activities as the West Virginia Teacher of the Year. That evening, I was recognized by the Berkeley County Board of Education at their board meeting, where I gave a short speech, Teachers are our Water. I also attended the Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship Banquet that weekend, which awards college scholarships to high school students in our area. The keynote speaker, the Rev. Lewis M. Anthony, gave the benediction  at Martin Luther King, Jr.'s funeral.
Presenting to the Rotary Club

Berkeley County Board of Education
Michael Wuest, head of community relations committee for YLA at Martinsburg High School
Vicky Bullett, Martinsburg native and Olympic gold medalist, at MLK Jr. Banquet
Rosabell Roman,  Founder and President Emeritus of MLK Jr. Scholarship 
After returning from Scottsdale this week, I presented to the Scholars Academy at North Middle School on my middle and high school initiative, Control Your S.E.L.F. (Social life and media, Education, Lifestyle, and Future). I'm looking forward to working with this group again this year for other presentations and workshops. They were very interested in my experience in Germany this past summer!
North Middle and South Middle students of the Scholars Academy (can you find the teacher in this picture? :-)
I was also recognized by the Berkeley County Council at one of their meetings at the end of January, and I presented to the Noon Rotary as well. In between I did an interview for The Picket, Shepherd University's newspaper.
Berkeley County Council
Presenting to the Noon Rotary Club
Berkeley needs to quit photo bombing my pictures and write his blog posts! 
When I'm not out and about and you can't see me, I am working. Presenting takes time to do correctly. Coming up with programs and speeches can't be done on the way to an event (well I've written an outline for a few speeches in the car, but that's not the best way to go about it). It's a completely different world than I lived for the last ten years. I'm spending the majority of my 11th year of teaching being a teacher to the community, the state, and all its teachers and students. And...I'm writing all the time. I write speeches, blog posts, e-mails (all day long), programs, ideas, to-do lists, and next up is some op-eds for CCSSO on the Common Core and on anxiety disorders for Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield. My typing skills have become second to none.

February looks pretty busy at this point as well - of course, weather pending. If you pray - and not everyone prays, and I respect that, but if you do - please pray for my safety. I live four and-a-half hours from Charleston, and have to travel I-68 (goes through Cumberland and Finzel, Maryland, where the winter weather can get nasty fast). The interstate is loaded with tractor trailers. I have no idea where I'm going most of the time and am at the mercy of my car's GPS (and ability to read a map). Keeping it real, it's a little intimidating to be small, young (looking-ish), and traveling solo. I will do great things (I hope) for the extraordinary people of this state, but I've got to get there and stay in one piece.

This is not a year off - it's a year on, as in on all the time. It's the best job ever, and I hope I do it well.

National Teacher of the Year Conference, Scottsdale, Arizona

I missed "Snow Day Week" in West Virginia last week while attending the first national conference of the year with all of the other state teachers of the year across the country for 2014. It was held in Scottsdale, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix. Not only was it warm and dry (not rubbing it in, but getting off the plane in BWI was like stepping back into a refrigerator), but it was great professional development for teacher leaders. We had sessions on policy making, career lattices versus career ladders, public relations, and using social media. One day was also training on the new SMART technology products we will be receiving for our classroom as part of being named a state teacher of the year. It was also a chance for all of us to meet each other before April, when we will all be recognized at the White House.
The hotel where our conference was held. It had a very "groovy," 1960s vibe to the decor :-) 

Pool view
Palm trees - and sunshine!!!
Are you feeling warm yet?
Main Street 
Not the West Virginia hills, but still gorgeous
Arizona Canal
View from the rooftop of the Hotel Valley Ho
Fountain in the town square
Horseshoe Fountain
Another cactus - hey, we don't have these in West Virginia :-)
I am still a little wiped out from last week, in addition to the other engagements and appearances I've made this month (see next blog post). It's not so much being physically tired as much as it has been a lot of information in a short period of time - the Mental Olympics. There's a lot more I could say about this experience, except right now I'm still decompressing a bit. My favorite sessions were social media and using the media to share your message.
Opening Session
All of the State and Territory Teachers of the Year 
I am looking forward to using my new SMART board and document camera in my classroom - when I am home at Tomahawk again. All of the technology is in the projector - it will project on any flat, white surface, and you only have to use you finger to manipulate it. There is a cube that comes with the document camera that allows you to manipulate 3-D content on the SMART board. Amazing doesn't quite describe it.
The SMART Board in action
Document camera and "The Cube"
We had some free time in the evenings to see a lot of Scottsdale. Thursday is the Gallery Walk at night, where all of the art galleries are lit and open to showcase their work. It's beautiful to see the city all it up at night, right down to the palm trees.
Bronco Statue
Glass Blowing
We took a horse and carriage ridge around the city :-)
Andy Warhol Museum
Just a statue I thought looked neat in the dark :-)
Lights everywhere - they leave them up all year long!
Petunias in January? Yes, please!
Lights going all the way up the palms!

I also had the opportunity to meet Rae Ellen McKee, the 1991 West Virginia and National Teacher of the Year, at our closing dinner on Saturday night. Rae taught Title I Reading at Slanesville Elementary in Hampshire County. She now lives in Houston, Texas. I'm actually going to be presenting to the students at Slanesville Elementary next month.
"Paparazzi" shot after dinner
With Michele Foreman, 2001 National Teacher of the Year, and Rae McKee
With Monica Beane, WV Teacher of the Year coordinator, and Rae McKee
It was a very full, exciting four-and-a-half days...and I came right back into more things to share and represent the education profession to others this year. While I was in Scottsdale, my uncle passed away. He was my Aunt Dawn's brother. I didn't get to see him much, but before all of this started I came over and showed him my pictures from Germany this summer when I was with the Transatlantic Outreach Program. He had been to Germany during the era of Checkpoint Charlie, and loved comparing pictures decades apart. It's things like this that put a lot of things, like "awards season," in perspective. We get caught up in the moment, on a fast moving train, and then life happens and pulls you back to reality. What really matters is who you are to those closest to you. So I'm writing this with a sad spot in my heart - and a little guilt for being too zoned in on my own train ride.

One last picture of Arizona

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Rewind Wednesday, Part Two: Toyota Highmark Press Conference

The following morning, I was recognized at a press event back at the capitol by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, State Superintendent of schools Jim Phares, and WV Board of Education President Gayle Manchin. I was also recognized by Doug Sheilds of Toyota Manufacturing, who presented me with the Prius to use as I travel the state this year, as well as Fred Early and Catherine McAlister (president and manager of communications, respectively), who present the teacher of the year with an unrestricted $5,000.
Approaching the capitol that morning

On our way inside, I happened to see...

Remarks by Gov. Tomblin

Thank you Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield!

Thank you Toyota!
What is a press conference like? Well, there are lots of cameras and flashes that are going off all at once. Whenever I see a camera, I want to look at the person taking the picture and smile (because my mother always told me to smile nice for the camera, you know), but what they want you to do is act natural and pretend they aren't there. Which is hard when there are 20+ of them. I wish I would have had Brad throw me my phone before I started speaking so I could have taken a picture of it to show you what it looks like. It's pretty exciting and fun.
Picture from the WVDE Facebook Page

I was also given the opportunity to make some remarks and express my gratitude to Toyota and Highmark for their generosity. You can watch my speech above. I also spoke about some of the programs I've created that I am looking forward to sharing with the students and teachers of West Virginia this year - but I will save those for another blog post.

We then went outside so they could officially present me with the car. I also did some interviews for the local news stations.
Picture from WVDE Facebook page

Getting positioned for pictures - and showing me how to turn on the car (hey it's a push button start...otherwise I would know how to start a car :-)

With the WV Board of Education

Speaking to the media
Berkeley the Bear also got some press time, but he will share that with his readers on his own blog. If that just sounded a little strange, check out his site, and I will explain on here in another blog post :-)

I had a wonderful time in Charleston and am "pumped" to represent West Virginia's teachers this year. I was really, truly sad to learn on the way home of the water emergency due to the chemical spill that is now impacting the southern counties of the state. I know there have been a lot of efforts here locally in the Eastern Panhandle to gather bottled water and supplies for those impacted by this emergency. As I told Jenni Vincent, a report for The Journal (our local  newspaper) prior to the State of the State address, those in the far Eastern Panhandle sometimes feel cut off from the rest of the state. In times of crisis you do get to see that, whatever part of the state we hail from, we are all West Virginians.

Next week I head to Scottsdale, Arizona, for the first conference with all of the other state teachers of the year. Just keeping it real, I'm a little intimidated by that, and I hope that I represent all of the teachers in our state well next week and in the months to come.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Rewind Wednesday, Part One: State of the State Address

Well, I began this post on a Wednesday and am finishing it on a Thursday, so technically, it's still a Rewind Wednesday post.

Last week I was honored at our beautiful state capitol during the State of the State address. I guess you could call it the official "kick off" to my year representing West Virginia. I was excited to attend - and a little nervous. I still wonder every once in a while if this is all really happening and if I'm the best person for the job.
Sitting in the governor's chair  before pictures (shhh...:-)

You know it's "for real" when...

The view from the balcony of the Delegate's Chamber 

Another view

Places, everyone!

Before the address, I had the opportunity to meet and speak with representatives of Toyota and Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, which support the teacher of the program and provide the state teacher of the year with the use of a Toyota Prius for a year and $5,000 from Highmark. I also met with our governor, Earl Ray Tomblin, and First Lady Joanne Tomblin. You can view the official pictures of the State of the State and the honored guests at this Flickr link. If you would like to see the address, you can view it at this link on WV Public Broadcasting. I appear about 22-23 minutes into the speech.

Okay, this is funny. I knew ahead of time when I was to stand and acknowledge the governor during the address. So, if you watch that part of the speech, you'll see me stand up - and then, everybody in the chamber stood up and clapped for me. My face kind of does one of those "Whoa" looks, because that's a lot of people giving one little person all that applause. And they kept clapping, and clapping, so I kept standing, and standing. The entire time, though, I was a little worried, because I'm thinking "Okay, are they clapping because I'm still standing or am I still standing because they're still clapping?" Regardless, I was very moved by it all. So I had my possibly extended minute of fame on WV Public Television.

With Brad after the address

With Woody Wilson, Medal of Honor recipient

Our state capitol building is stunning - especially at night. It is made of nine different types of marble, and the dome is gold guild. It has been years since I have been in the capitol, and never at night when the chandeliers are all ablaze. The sphere chandelier in the dome (I call it the "Cinderella chandelier" but that isn't what it's really called, it just what I think of when I look at it.) weighs 4,000 pounds and has the lighting power of 15,000 candles. No picture can do it justice! Each of the chandeliers in the Delegate's and Senate chamber has 10,000 pieces of rock crystal. They are equally stunning.

The crowd after the address

The "Cinderella chandelier" with Sen. Robert Byrd's statue in the background

Beautiful, intricate ceiling!

Senate Chamber

Looks like 10,000 pieces of rock crystal to me!
It was a special, exciting night. It makes me cry when people send me texts and e-mails when they "see" me somewhere, whether it's on the local news or in the newspaper. I don't think I will ever feel worthy of it, maybe just incredibly humbled and personally obligated to repay the love that has been shown to me for the rest of my life.
Good night, Charleston! See you tomorrow!