Sunday, August 31, 2014

The August Rush

Back to school.

No sooner than I had neatly folded my flight suit from Space Camp (neatly folded for me, anyway) it was time to face the next task at hand: set up and prepare my classroom, as well as continue to drive, write speeches, and attend my scheduled events - in no particular order. For real. I had been working on getting my room back in order all summer, but there are always things that have to wait to be completed until August. I have been randomly going into my room to finish a bulletin board, drag in a new (purple!) bookcase from the yard sale down the street, and place books, name tags, and school cones on my students' desks. So my life hasn't been much different than any other teacher's in West Virginia for the past few weeks - with just a few minor exceptions.

Before I tell you about the events that have been stuffed in between the meetings and paperwork of a new school year, let's step into my classroom. Getting back into almost normal mode, being with kids all day, has been much needed oxygen. Tomahawk is my second home, and I must say, it's good to be home. My little piece of Utopia right before you get to the Morgan County line gives me some routine and normalcy that has been absent in my life for the last 11 months.
Welcome to 5th grade! 

The students that made this quilt for math are
graduating from high school this year.

Spo-nomics, our classroom economy.

The Schultutten is a school cone that children in Germany
receive on their first day of school from their families. 

Now back to (my) reality.

The beginning of the month (August 1st, actually) had me back in Charleston to serve on committee for professional teaching standards. I've lost count how many times I have made the trip across the state and have memorized how many miles it is on each Interstate (8.8 on I-81, 22 on I-70, 112 on I-68, 148 on I-79, and about a mile on 1-77. Yes, that is five Interstate changes.). Last August 2nd, I was being interviewed as a finalist in Charleston, in the same building. This time last year seems like a lifetime ago. It is both humbling and mind blowing how much has changed in my life since last August 2nd - and how little I expected to happen when I walked out of those doors of the Capitol Complex. More on that in another post.
The beautiful gold dome of the WV Capitol

The following week began with a dedication of the new Hedgesville Public Library. This serves the students in the area where I teach, and it was...wait for it...FUN to be close to home for an event and facility that serves students in my school district. Seriously, I had tremendous joy to see familiar faces of former students, parents, and community members that I hadn't seen much of over the last year.

I donated a copy of The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman,
a book I always read to begin the year and kick off our classroom
Scrabble team.

The puppet theater is the Eagle Scout project of a former Tomahawk student.
 You can view my speech at the library at this link, because Blogger is being contrary and won't let me embed it.

The next day I attended the Berkeley County Chamber of Commerce Breakfast for the new teachers in our county. It was exciting to see some of the beginning teachers I had spoken to, as well as some that I met at the colleges where I presented at over the past year. From Martinsburg I hopped (no, I drove, no hopping for me) to Wildwood Middle School in Jefferson County to speak to their teachers on their opening day.
The amazing murals inside Wildwood Middle School.

And Wednesday...that was my opening day, and evening orientation to meet my new students and parents for the year. If I were a car, I would have two gears: teacher of the year, and Mrs. Sponaugle. So I geared into Mrs. Sponaugle mode for the rest of that week and into the next, getting to know my class, collecting paperwork, and learning a new schedule. And getting reacquainted with colleagues I haven't seen much of over the past few months.

By Friday of the following week, it back to teacher of the year mode. I drove up to Morgantown Thursday evening after school and got into my hotel room just in time to log into Twitter and lead a WV edchat on teacher leadership. The next morning I spoke to teacher education students from across the state at the inaugural Pre-service Teacher Workshop of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission. Video of the event will soon be available on their website.
Cheat Lake

With student from WVU at Parkersburg

More WVU at Parkersburg students

Ohio Valley University students

Next week it was back to school, to gear into Mrs. Sponaugle mode - for two days. Wednesday I attended the bi-monthly board meeting of the Education Alliance at the Greenbrier during their annual Business Summit, then headed from there to Charleston to begin the process of starting another teacher on this incredible journey.
The Greenbrier...and Berkeley

Inside the Greenbrier

Inside the annual report of The Education Alliance. That is a
very big picture. It's even bigger when you aren't expecting to
come across it.

Then I landed head first into a pillow (well no, I taught Friday), then I landed head first into a pillow to begin this three day weekend with a little rest. Next week I make a trip to Flatwoods and a trip to Charleston. The odometer on my Prius will surpass 12,000 by this time next week. If that sounds crazy, it's because it is. It is staggeringly hard to maintain it all, and have a semi-clean house. And eat right. And exercise. And make sense when someone asks me a question (as in, be in the right gear, teacher of the year or Mrs. Sponaugle, because sometimes my mind hasn't caught up with there I'm at). There have been 178274935 tabs open on my mental browser since last October 9th. I think I just added seven.

But I haven't and won't complain(ed). So much good, so much joy, so much hope for the future and for future opportunities has shown itself to me and others because of this experience. It's almost (well, it is) too much good, too much joy, too much opportunity, for one person. Yet, even though it has seemed like this day would never come back in the insanity of March and April, this chapter of my life is coming to a close. Things are winding down. There's still more to come, but within a different context. I'm hoping to take the month of September to reflect on some of the behind-the-scenes experiences that have brought me to this point and on what's to come.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

International Space Camp, Part 4: One Last Orbit, Graduation, and Back to Earth

I'll admit it. I was a little sad to see it end.

Space Camp was an incredible week of learning, experiences, and teacher fellowship. There is no other experience I would have liked to have closed out my summer representing education in West Virginia. Our last day in Huntsville included some free time to visit the grounds of the Rocket Park and the Davidson Center. I had made short trips to these all week, but it was nice to go back and see it all one more time. I wish I could share every picture I took with you...but here's the highlight reel.

First, let's visit the Rocket Park one more time...
I know...but you haven't seen it from this angle yet!

Centaur G-Prime designed to be carried on the
space shuttle but was nixed after the Challenger disaster

Info on the Centaur

Another view of the Saturn IV replica

Skylab replica

Where's Berkeley?

View of the lunar module, Saturn IV, and Rockets
Now let's go back in the Davidson Center...oh wait! There were some exhibits in the building where they have the shuttle and lunar simulators, better go check those out while there's still the chance!
A space shuttle tire

The capsule that held Miss Baker and Abel

Berkeley in the Manned Maneuvering Unit

Okay, this was in the gift shop, but it's a space
shuttle made out of KNEX. I love KNEX and Legos,
so I had to take a picture of it.
Later that day, we heard from another astronaut, Bob Springer, who recounted his missions on the Space Shuttle. Dan Oates also shared with us the SCIVIS program (Space Camp for Interested Visually Impaired Students). All of the components of the shuttle simulator and mission control can be modified so that blind and low vision students can participate in the same experiences as other students. There are even Braille panels that cover the inside of the orbiter simulator so they can "fly" the shuttle as well.

Bob Springer

Weightless Flights

Liquid Salt and Pepper in Space

Team Destiny with Bob Springer

By this point, we were all a little tired and sad to leave each other, but it was time for graduation. This is where we received our wings walked across the stage with our team. A special addition to our ceremony was each of the teachers receiving a 300,000 Hours Unmanned Aircraft Systems coin from the U.S. Army Redstone Arsenal as recognition for our year of service.
Dorm mates suited up for graduation
It's time to graduate...but first, let's take a selfie :-D
Photo by Ryan Devlin, Pennsylvania TOY

Being introduced

Coin and wings

Team Destiny after graduation
With a few hours of daylight left, I went back to the Davidson Center to walk the length of Saturn IV once more and look at the exhibits one last time. Some of these pictures I took earlier in the week.
An actual Quarantine Airstream used by the Apollo astronauts

Inside the Airstream

Sleeping quarters

A peek inside
A replica of the inside of Skylab

Water filtration unit (I think)

Apollo Lunar Module

Not a great picture, but this is the computer or "brain" of the Saturn IV 

Where's Berkeley?

Didn't you know astronauts wore flip-flops
in the lunar capsule? (Just kidding)

And like that, it was mission complete and back down to earth. After squeezing all our mementos and memories into our suitcases, we enjoyed each other's company the rest of the evening until it was time to get some rest and fly home the next morning. We'll reconvene one last time as a group in Princeton, New Jersey in October. Until then, it's back to work, school, and deciding how to best direct these experiences into a new mission.