Monday, March 31, 2014

March Madness, Part 3: The End of the Beginning

That sonic thud you heard the week before last was me coming to a screeching halt.

I crashed. Not the Prius, but physically. It happens every year, because I tend to load myself down with anything and everything I can shove into my schedule, and then I pay for it. Spring is a new, fresh start, and is more than welcome this year after the Winter with No End in Sight...and I'm hoping, after recharging and taking care of myself, that I'm geared up for the next few months. At least, I hope I'm ready for April, which is looking to have a lot of travel across the state and beyond.

I feel like it is also the end of the beginning of this journey. This role is no longer new. The shock and awe of being the teacher of the year, while still humbling, has diminished. It's who I am, kind of like an extra appendage that I just had to learn how to use properly (if that makes no sense please take into consideration that it's 11:45 at night and I've just driven 4 1/2 hours home from Charleston. I get a free pass.). I've spoken to schools, community groups, teachers, and students; I don't so much as flinch when someone asks me to stand up and say a few words.  I have found my "groove" regarding my platform and issues of interest. Best of all, I have developed a rhythm and routine to what, how, and when I prepare for travel. I can have clothes picked out, equipment charged and packed, snacks, water, and fuel in an hour. I have adapted  to and embraced this journey.

The last part of the month had me slowing down a bit, or more so me going in slower motion. I held a workshop at Shepherd University on grant writing and Web 2.0 tools (albeit for a very small audience...I'll spare my dignity and not share how few people showed up). While I didn't tape any more interviews (yet) for Be the DifferenceWV, I did finish editing and uploading all of the ones I recorded in March. I also helped present awards at the RESA 8 Regional Social Studies Fair (I had planned on judging as well, but by Saturday morning my body was screaming for a break - or at least some sleep). On Sunday, my church family, Otterbein United Methodist, recognized me during the church service and with a reception afterwards.
The super cute flyer I was so excited to give "all" my audience for my workshop...things happen :-S

Regional Social Studies Fair...A Tomahawk student is going to the state competition!

Thank you, OUMC, for my beautiful cake and reception!

Back Creek Valley Elementary Interview with Erin Butler

From church I headed to Charleston for the Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Awards. I was honored as a recipient last year and was given the opportunity to speak to this year's teachers receiving the award. The Arch Coal foundation recognizes 12 teachers in West Virginia each year for their accomplishments in the classroom. I was especially proud of the two teachers from Berkeley County receiving the award, Sonya Shockey and Candi Smith - you can watch both of their interviews for Be the DifferenceWV in Hedgesville High School's and Tuscarora Elementary's episodes.
We meet again, Clay Center...

With Sonya and Candi

Speaking to the recipients

After I spoke at the award ceremony at the Clay Center (hard to believe I was just there in October...), I went to the University of Charleston to speak to their student teachers. I was warmly received and I am extremely thankful to Dr. Lockhart for organizing this event and the following reception. I love speaking to and working with beginning teachers; if "this" was supposed to happen for any reason at all, it is because there are young people preparing for this profession that I was destined to meet. I feel like I have found a second calling working with students in this capacity.
University of Charleson

Speaking to the student teachers in Riggleman Hall

Gorgeous view of the Capitol from the school!

Photo-op with some of the student teachers and Dr. Lockhart (bottom right)

Now I am home, my heart is full, and my car is approaching the 4,000 mile mark. Maybe I didn't crash this month, after all, just skidded a little out of control. This time next month, I will be in Washington, D.C., preparing to meet the President of the United States. Mike Funkhouser, the 2013 West Virginia Teacher of the Year, just sent me a "gentle reminder" e-mail to take care of myself and enjoy the journey. He's right. You can't do everything, all the time, for everyone. I have been blessed with the opportunity to experience this state and its people through the lens of a teacher - and when it's over, I need to have the energy and the joy to share this adventure with others. Everything happens for a reason and a purpose that is yet unseen. In October, I felt like I was living someone else's life. It's almost April, and I can confirm that this crazy, rewarding, and life changing journey belongs to me, at least for the time being. This is for real, but it's not forever.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

March Madness, Part 2: Teaching and Learning Conference

Keeping it real...I'm a little worse for wear right now. I've made it through the winter with hardly a sniffle. Now I'm starting to feel run down. So far I have kept a pretty steady, speedy pace, but I have a feeling that if I don't take a few days and take care of myself, I'm going to have to put on the brakes stat.

Let's rewind, was it just last week?! It was! I attended the Teaching and Learning Conference in Washington, D.C., the first time I have ever been to a national conference (outside of something for a fellowship or academy, not sure that counts - and those have always been when school has been out for the summer). Keep in mind, this is the teacher that hasn't taken a sick day in nine years, so I don't normally make it a point to be out of the classroom if I can help it. This was the inaugural conference for National Board Certified Teachers across the country, and it did not disappoint.

Each day there were several general, or plenary sessions held with a well-known presenter. The opening plenary session was with Gayle Manchin leading a panel discussion on "Reclaiming McDowell." McDowell County is the 8th most impoverished counties in the United States, and the panel discussed efforts being made to support its schools and improve the future of its students. I think about West Virginia a lot. I know that sounds silly, but the extreme Eastern Panhandle (Morgan, Berkeley, and Jefferson counties) is very far removed from the harsh realities of the more rural, remote areas of the state. The more I see, the more I understand - and the more I feel the need to learn about the issues that the majority of this state has to contend with  - and that will be a separate blog post.
Gayle Manchin leading the "Reclaiming McDowell" panel

Some of the other speakers were Bill Gates being interviewed by George Stephanopoulos about the Common Core, Arne Duncan, Harvard educator-in-residence Dr. Tony Wagner (who was outstanding), author Doris Kearns Goodwin (author of Team of Rivals, which was the basis for the movie Lincoln), and Vicki Kennedy sharing the progress on the Edward Kennedy Center for the United States Senate.
iPad picture of Bill and George (unfortunately my phone battery went dead right before this...)

Arne Duncan

Dr. Tony Wagner

Vicki Kennedy

Doris Kearns Goodwin

I also happened to run into Gail, one of the other teachers that I went to Germany with through the Transatlantic Outreach Program this past summer. We were even staying in the same hotel! It was great to catch up and hear about what her first grade class is up to in North Carolina.

I also attended three breakout sessions each day over the two day conference. On Friday, I went to a session on professional writing presented by the editor-in-chief of Kappan magazine, a "Teacherprenuer" workshop by the Center for Teaching Quality, and a session on PBS Learning Media (which is ironic - will explain in my third March Madness post). The theme within all the sessions was how teachers could lead and extend their influence in education without leaving the classroom full time. I truly love the classroom and miss my students, but have also been able to see through this experience how one can have an impact on education outside of the school setting. It is reassuring that opportunities exist to do great things in education without leaving the classroom.

The sessions I choose for Saturday were a little more random. The first session of the day was with Steve Spangler, who is an incredibly enthusiastic, engaging presenter and lover of all things science. He makes you want to go back to the classroom and teach science all day! The second session was a panel discussion on education systems in other countries, namely Finland, Australia, and Japan. I ended the conference with a music in the schools session presented by Debra Lindsay, a music teacher in Alexandria, Virginia, who is a former Martinsburg resident.
Steve Spangler Fun!

Bernoulli's Principal at Play
The conference concluded with a music performance and discussion with Bobby McFerrin ("Don't Worry, be Happy"). I had to leave early  to catch my train home, but am glad that I was able to hear part of his performance.
Bobby McFerrin

I learned a lot about the potential and future of National Board Certified Teachers to transform the profession. It was a wonderful, unexpected experience to add to my year. Now, I need to get myself up-to- speed and take care of myself, because April is going to be a busy month!

Monday, March 17, 2014

March Madness, Part 1: Home Sweet Home

It was a dark and snowy night. Again.

There's March coming in like a lion or lamb...then there's March coming in like the Abominable Snowman. It's been warm, cool, freezing, windy, and hopefully after today, clear and sunny. March is always kind of a "mad" month, not just weather-wise but school and life related as well. For the most part, the first few weeks of this month for me have been more Lamb Chop than Simba from the Lion King.

Why? I've been close to home, and when you've been traveling a lot, home feels so good. This has been in part from the wild, wonderful winter. With Dr.Seuss Day looking like a snow day (it was), I decided I could "read" to the students of West Virginia by taping myself in my classroom and uploading it to YouTube. You can watch the video of "Oh, the Places You'll Go" at this link.

Oh the things you will think!
Luckily, the weather cooperated for a local event I've been waiting for - the county Social Studies Fair. Not only do I love social studies - I have wanted to announce the names of the winners since I was in eighth grade, and I finally got my chance. West Virginia is the only state that has a Social Studies Fair, where students research a topic of their choice, create a display, report, and presentation, then present their findings to judges from our community. Students compete at the school, county, regional, and state level. It's an authentic way to have students be independent in their learning and a wonderful opportunity for the community to see the potential and hard work of our students.
Proud to announce the names of present and past Tomahawk students!

I  had the chance to meet more of the students and parents of the community again at Rosemont Elementary's S'more Reading Night. Berkeley made his county debut sharing his favorite book, "M is for Mountain State." Rosemont's faculty and staff do a wonderful job promoting reading among their students and families - they had an amazing turnout!
Berkeley stole the show in Mrs. Spataro's classroom :-)

I have also resumed interviews for Be the Difference WV, starting with Valley View Elementary. During January and February I took a break, because the number of snow days we had would have made it difficult to schedule any visits. I am taping five schools this week, which will leave me with only four more to do to have covered all of Berkeley County.
With Len Jurkowski at Valley View Elementary

With Kimberlea Poling at Valley View Elementary

Saturday I returned from the Teaching and Learning Conference in Washington. D.C. That will be a separate post, because it was so amazing that it warrants having its own post. Next week I head back to Charleston to work on the NCTAF committee for improving professional development and learning in West Virginia, and I present a workshop at Shepherd University. Let's hope that the weather calms down so we can spring into a season of hope and new experiences.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Rest of February: Classrooms, Community, Committees, and Colleges

The weather in the Eastern Panhandle has us snow bound/ice bound/way-too-cold bound for yet another day this winter. Even with all of the precipitation last month, I managed to time things so that I was still able to make all of my commitments around the state. This post is a run-down of all the things I did in addition to Digital Learning Day and the WV Future Educators of America Conference - sorry if it's a little long, but this blog is also my "diary" of keeping track of all the things I do during my year.

After Digital Learning Day in Charleston, I participated in a two day committee meeting facilitated by the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future (NCTAF) on developing a new framework for professional development for teachers in West Virginia. The goal is to move from a professional development structure to one of professional learning, where courses and in-services allow the teacher to meet and account for their needs as an educator.

The following Friday morning after returning from Charleston, I spoke to the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Chamber of Commerce Rise and Shine Program at their breakfast. I was a little travel weary, but made it through my presentation.
Berkeley was looking a little better than me at this point.

The next day, I headed back to my alma mater, Shepherd University (formerly known as Shepherd College), to speak to their Kappa Delta Pi members and Education Student Association. This is first of several times this year I will be working with Shepherd students, and I'm really looking forward to giving back to the school that prepared me to be a teacher.
Knutti Hall - where most of the education classes are held.

I briefly touched on this in my WV FEA post, but I am also a part of the High Quality Education Stakeholder committee that is working to improve standards for educator preparation in West Virginia. Working with pre-service teachers has quickly become the highlight of my year, and I'm looking forward to playing a greater role in preparing teachers for the classroom.

The following week I spoke to the Morgan County Rotary in Berkeley Springs and presented to new teachers in Berkeley County at the Holiday Inn. My keynote to new and pre-service teachers is "The Four As/Fear Not," which I will either record or type a transcript of in a blog post at a later date. At the end of the week I headed to Slanesville Elementary in Hampshire County to spend the day with their students and to interview two teachers for Be the Difference WV. That is also the same week I had an op-ed published in the Charleston Gazette on the Common Core. Somewhere in there I also met with my National Board Candidates.

My picture is everywhere, and the funny thing is that I'm not that phased by it anymore.
Berkeley County new teachers program
Introducing Clay the Cardinal to students at Slanesville Elementary.
Finding where Boone the Bear is from :-)
Interviewing Teresa Thorne at Slanesville Elementary
The following week I made my way to Buckhannon in Upshur County to speak to the education students at West Virginia Wesleyan College. I spoke to two classes, an integrating literacy and elementary math methods course, and did a two hour presentation that evening. I enjoyed meeting the students at Wesleyan and being on their beautiful campus. I am greatly anticipating that I will get to speak to more college students across the state this year, as I feel I have found my target audience for my message and platform. A special thanks to Edwina Howard-Jack for inviting me to speak to her students, Dr. Deborah Bush, and Keith Saine of the theater department for helping me set up my presentation for the evening.

WV Wesleyan College

The performing arts center where I spoke that evening.

Guess who :-D
Some of the Bobcats I met that evening :-)

The next morning I spoke at the High Priority Schools conference at the Stonewall Resort, which targets working with schools to meet the needs of high poverty students. I attended a morning elementary session that addressed the need to support literacy among our high need student populations and Universal Lesson Design.

...And the following morning - the last day of February - I was back in my classroom for the first time in a long time (obviously) to be with my students. I felt like I was the substitute - but I was glad to be back. I miss being in a school and working with students, although I wouldn't trade one experience I have had this year. I am becoming a better teacher and representative of the education profession with every speech I make, classroom I visit, and person I meet. My classroom has gone from being the shape of a rectangle to the shape of West Virginia.