Tuesday, February 18, 2014

WV Future Educators Association Conference and Competition

I have had the opportunity to meet the next generation of educators in West Virginia - and they are amazing.

I spoke at the opening session of the fifth annual West Virginia Future Educators Association (FEA) last Tuesday at the Stonewall Resort. The FEA is a career and technical organization for high school students interested in careers in the education field. While many of the students involved in FEA are interested in becoming teachers, some are planning on other careers that involve working with and the development of children. Students involved in their local chapters take classes related to education and child development, and prepare projects for the state competition. Some of the project categories are Lesson Planning and Delivery, Public Speaking, Electronic Career Portfolio, and (my favorite) Storybook Creation and Presentation. Students then proceed to the National FEA competition based on their placement at the state level.
Roane-Jackson Technical Center being introduced

WV FEA student president Symnatha Franklin opening the conference

I admittedly did not know much about the FEA before I attended this event. I figured I would come and give a speech and then proceed on to the next event on my agenda for the day. Well, I was wrong. Out of all of the events I have attended so far this year, meeting these students and learning about the mission of the FEA has impacted me the most. The students in our classrooms right now are our future teachers. How incredible is it to be able to reach our pre-service teachers before they even set foot in their first college course! For a state that will have 50% of its teaching force eligible for retirement within the next decade, the programs that FEA provides give West Virginia the opportunity to prepare high school students - some of which are the most articulate, caring, intelligent teenagers you will ever meet - for the rigor and skill needed for the classroom.
Dan Brown, FEA National Director

Let's get back to those high school students. Wow. The positive energy in that room as the FEA students were preparing their posters for their introductions was evident. It is exciting to know that these are the young men and women that will be teaching our children in the next 5-6 years. They are smart, compassionate, motivated, and break every negative stereotype you can think of when it comes to teenagers (except for maybe the music, but most of that was even okay :-)
With future art therapist Symnatha Franklin and her entry for the storybook competition :-)

With sophomore Emily Williams and her storybook entry

WV FEA student officers (left to right) Hayley Hollandsworth, Haley McNeil, Symnatha Franklin, Jacob Sargent, and Katlyn Daniel

I also had the chance to talk to Jacob Sargent, one of the vice presidents of the WV FEA, about his tremendous act of courage and quick-thinking a few weeks ago. How he sprang into action without a second thought and helped his peers is remarkable. You can read more about his story at this link.
Drema McNeal, 2011 WV Teacher of the Year

Susan Rice, WV FEA Advisor

...So about that speech I was set to give. I didn't give it. Oh, I had one prepared that I thought high school students would want to hear, something fun and cool. In a way, I was a little intimidated by talking to high school students, because I didn't want them to be bored by what I had to say. The energy in that room further prompted me to feel that I was going to need to up the ante on this one.

And then, someone said something right before I was introduced. It doesn't matter who or what was said (although I may let him or her know), but it took me back to 16, 17-year-old me. With five minutes and counting, I realized that these future teachers, with their own strengths and shortcomings, didn't need to hear a speech. They needed to hear a story. My story.

The teaching profession needs people from all backgrounds and experiences to educate our children and motivate them to succeed. There is no perfect person to become a teacher, just people with perfect qualities and potential. You never would have expected me growing up and as a young adult to someday be the West Virginia Teacher of the Year. Those with the desire to be successful teachers need to know that the obstacles they face and overcome build your character. Those of us that look like finished products have been years in the making - and are still a work in progress.

It was hard to leave that group of students, because they and those that organize the WV FEA are very inspiring. I left there with a greater understanding of who I could impact this year. Unfortunately, that also meant I was late, as in "diva late," for my meeting with the high quality teacher committee in Bridgeport. Thankfully they were very forgiving, as I explained to them what incredible future teachers were in store for West Virginia.
Explaining why I was "diva late" :-)

Thank you WV FEA for having me at your conference. You are preparing yourselves for your future students in ways I never could have anticipated as a high school student. I'm convinced that someday I will be calling at least one of you a fellow West Virginia Teacher of the Year.

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