January 25, 2011 ~ Anticipation

I am writing this entry from the Portland Jetport awaiting my flight to Dallas. I was scheduled to depart early this morning but due to computer difficulties, I will not be leaving the snowy state of Maine until this afternoon! Dallas, here I come! I am sad to say that I will miss the opening dinner of the conference tonight, but I am looking forward to meeting all the state Teachers of the Year tomorrow as we learn how to use our SMARTboards. Let the fun and learning begin!

January 26, 2011 ~ Innovation

Yesterday as I waited for my flight to Dallas, I received the most encouraging e-mail from Gloria Noyes (2009)! She gave me the pep talk I needed as I begin my journey representing the state of Maine.

Today, I had the chance to meet many of the other state ToYs. What an unbelievably impressive group of passionate educators! Even though I missed the opening dinner last night, I was welcomed into the group today. We spent our day learning about the incredible technology package that we all received from SMART. My teaching and the learning of my students will be greatly impacted by this incredible gift. I am excited for my return to Maine so I can put my learning into action!

At dinner this evening, former National Teachers of the Year shared words of wisdom with our group of 2011 teachers. Kathy Mellor (2004), Andrea Peterson (2007) and Michael Geisen (2008) gave us a brief glimpse into their journey as teachers of the year. Each one of them traveled a different path, but they all shared a common message of the need to treasure this opportunity and the power of finding our voice as educators. Looking forward to more learning tomorrow!

January 27, 2011 ~ Voice
Today we heard from Gene Wilhoit and Scott Palmer about the issues our federal policy makers are processing in Washington. We learned that we have a voice as individuals and collectively that we must use to inform the country about the powerful, positive events happening in our classrooms on a daily basis. It is the responsibility of all educators to voice the fire in our hearts. I need to take a bold step forward and be a voice for my students. This was a life-changing message for me.
Tonight we visited the Dallas Aquarium and received the most powerful gift. The University of Phoenix gave each state teacher a full tuition Teaching It Forward scholarship. We have the opportunity to give the gift of an education to a deserving member of our community. It was an emotional gift to receive as we heard the stories of last year's recipients. I am grateful for the chance to allow someone to continue their educational journey, as I know a diploma can be a door to a brighter future.

January 28, 2011 ~ Connections
Today's session by Educational Testing Services (ETS) focused on adult learners. I feel comfortable teaching nine year old learners, so it was interesting to process the similarities and differences in young and adult learning styles. We spent a great deal of time chatting in our homerooms about issues in our states and how we can take our learning back home and apply it in purposeful ways.
This afternoon we were released to explore the city. Sixteen ToYs set out on a Dallas expedition! We started at The Sixth Floor Museum at the Dealey Plaza dedicated to the assasination of President Kennedy. This powerful tour made me realize the need to get students beyond the walls of our classrooms to experience learning as much as possible. I have read about this event, but my learning was magnified in our hour tour. There is no substitute for experiential learning. After dinner at a Texas steakhouse (Where else would you eat in Dallas?), we went to the NFL Experience at the Convention Center. This was the ultimate ToY bonding experience! We laughed as we participated in photo ops and threw footballs through tires. (Tom Brady would have been proud of me! I channeled my inner Patriot!) After many laughs, we returned to the hotel and continued to share our stories.

January 29, 2011 ~ Passion
Can it really be the end? This morning we had the most moving presentation by Rick Melmer, Dean of the University of South Dakota School of Education. He became emotional as he shared his message on working at the state level with policy initiatives. He recited the most amazing poem about being a builder or a wrecker. Our work as builders of the future is the most powerful job. We are the profession that impacts all others.
What is your rich and fudgy? Our media training was hilarious and impressive. I learned so much about articulating my message as I find my voice. After lunch, we processed our learning and began to explore our thoughts on a system of teacher evaluation ~ hot topic. How can you measure passion?
Our evening concluded with an amazing dinner and presentation by ING who graciously funds the National Teacher of the Year program, as well as numerous educational opportunities. Sarah Wessling closed the night with an amazing, inspirational (I can't use this work enough) speech about the poetry of teaching. Her message resonated with me as an educator and now as an advocate. It was with a heavy heart that I said good-bye to my new colleagues and friends. They have energized me. I am eternally grateful and counting the days until our next encounter in DC!

Click this link to check out a scrapbook of highlights from my Dallas Adventure!