Saturday, May 24, 2014

Two Weeks at Home: Presentations, Celebrations, and Paying it Forward

Home. Three day weekend. No commitments for a few days except family. Bliss.

The past two weeks have been close to home, although that's not to say there hasn't been a lot going on. Almost every day I have had an appearance or commitment, most of which resulted in some long evenings. It's also the end of the school year, which brings a bit of sadness to me because I missed out on so much. My classroom was a part of my heart more than I realized. Saying goodbye to a year and a class I didn't get to be a part of makes me feel empty. 

However, there's plenty going on to fill any void - so that is where I choose to direct my energy. Two weeks ago I spoke at the Eastern West Virginia Community Foundation (EWVCF) Scholarship Reception, recognizing and awarding students in Berkeley, Morgan, and Jefferson Counties. It was exciting to see several of my former Smoke Signals staff and student council members receive awards. What I didn't know - and found out at the end, right before wind, rain and lightning besieged the grounds of the Purple Iris - was that a scholarship had been established in my name for students choosing to pursue a career in education. This makes me so happy and gives me a purpose and a goal for the future. My goal is to support those that have the determination and talent to become educators but not the financial resources, and I'm hoping to encourage those who are non-traditional students to seek the funding to accomplish their goals.

Tomahawk alumni receiving scholarships - all were on the
Smoke Signals newspaper staff or student council :-) 

With Sabrina, a former Smoke Signals staff writer who is
attending Fairmont State in the fall to study elementary education!

With Scott Roach, president of EWVCF
Next up was speaking and helping to present awards at the Berkeley County Council PTA banquet at Bunker Hill Elementary. That was the 31st and final school I needed to visit in Berkeley County. Being pulled to travel across the state has made it difficult to get to every school, but I felt that it was important to keep that commitment. I have also finished my Berkeley County interviews for Be the DifferenceWV. That has given me the opportunity to speak to at least two teachers in every school in my county. More on that in another post.
I rarely take selfies, but thought my 31st school visit warranted one :-)

Interviewing Brande Hockensmith at Musselman High

I also shared Berkeley with two schools in Berkeley County - Back Creek Valley Elementary for their Mountaineer Day (a great event with square dancing and homemade ice cream!) and Spring Mills Primary. While at Spring Mills, I stopped in to see my elementary art teacher, Liz Altman. I remember in fifth grade living for art class day - I would still rather draw (or write) more than anything else in my spare time - when I have spare time.
Back Creek Valley Elementary students on Mountaineer Day

Talking about state pride with second graders at Spring Mills Primary 

With Liz Altman, my art teacher from Marlowe Elementary

The Tuesday after the EWVCF Reception I did an interview with Anne Laskey, the National Board Certification coordinator for Berkeley County Schools, for the Panhandle Spotlite on WEPM. We discussed the purpose of National Board certification and its impact on Berkeley County teachers with Marsha Chwalik. With a greater emphasis on teacher leadership on the federal level, it becomes increasingly important to promote opportunities for teachers to demonstrate their contributions to their classrooms. 
With Anne Laskey and...Berkeley!?!? I didn't know bears did
radio interviews, too! :-)
Some say that National Board certification or Masters degrees don't make you a better teacher. I would have to say I disagree with that sentiment wholeheartedly. Any time you challenge yourself to reflect on your practice and increase your own understanding in the field of education, you grow as a person and as a professional. Opportunities arise when you achieve those goals to better serve students in your classroom, state, and nation. Teachers are not as highly regarded as they should be as professionals, and if we want to move forward and have our voices heard and highly regarded, we need to reach out, promote, and celebrate our accomplishments and efforts to improve our practice. In states such as West Virginia, where 50% of teachers will be eligible for retirement in the next decade, it is increasingly important for National Board Certification to be supported as a means to validate, reward, and retain accomplished teachers.

I ended this school week with our fifth grade field trip to the National Zoo in D.C. In a year where my role in education radically changed, it is comforting to do something traditional. I welcome the normalcy, and I'm already mentally preparing for next school year (and how I'm going to get ready for my own classroom during June and July, since I will have my current responsibilities during the August rush). While at the zoo, I ran into Jacqueline Frierson, a social studies teacher at William Wirt Middle School in Prince George's County, Maryland. She and I were Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum fellows in 2010 and attended the fellowship in Springfield, Illinois, together. What a coincidence to meet up four years later! After 42 years in education, she is retiring this year. I'm so glad we were able to reconnect - on our class field trips!
A collage of photos from our beautiful day at the National Zoo

With ALPLM alum Dr. Frierson
This has been a school year like no other. It's a year where I have spent a lot of time by myself, doing things I never anticipated experiencing, meeting people - incredible people who have changed my life. I have one more trip this school year - I head to Beckley for the Raleigh County Teacher of the Year reception and school visits next week. There may be no place like home, but I've learned to deeply appreciate those who welcome me across West Virginia, wherever my travels take me.

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