September found me beginning the school year at BCIT and a class at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. There were a few things I wanted to complete this year and I didn't know how I would do it. First I wanted to finish my National Board Certification. Ten of my colleagues and I took the Take One section and we would have to wait until November to get our scores. Second, I really want to get my doctorate, so I decided to take a class at Rutgers in New Brunswick on the history of education. I love learning, but New Brunswick is a hike so I wasn't sure how I would handle the travel and the work. Little did I know when I started the class that both of these dreams would have to be put on hold for a while.
I had completed my interview for NJ TOY which I thought went well, but I tend to talk a lot, and I can never judge how I do in interviews. Everyone just kept nodding and writing on their score sheets. Besides, I was sure that there was no way I had won. I was the reluctant leader who was happy to be Queen of her classroom, but unsure about leading others. Sure I had ideas, but would anyone be crazy enough to follow me?
My interview answers got me a place on the new Evaluation Advisory Pilot Committee for teacher evaluation. As one of a handful of teachers on the committee, I was honored, but thought it was just because when asked what I would want to work on with the Commissioner, I answered teacher evaluation and talked about my valuable experiences with National Board Certification.
I got a cryptic message from my principal for a meeting on September 15 at 1:30. This wouldn't be strange except it was in the middle of one of my classes and after being in school just over a week in, there is no way he would pull me out of class for something that could have been dealt with after school. Then they wouldn't tell me what the meeting was about, but I tend to be a troublemaker, so it could have been anything.
I arrived at the office at the appointed time, ready for whatever. At two weeks into the school year, I had contracted a case of what felt like the Plague and had basically lost my voice and coughed every time I talked. My principal told me to read an article in that day's paper and left the office, which left me dumbfounded. When he came back in, he kept looking at his phone. Not usual behavior. When it finally rang, he put it on speaker, something else he never does and all I heard was "Please hold for the Commissioner". It dawned on me what was happening and I was really hoping that they weren't calling with bad news. Chris Cerf got on the phone and said he said," I have good news and I have bad news. the good news is that you are now the NJ Teacher of the Year." All I could squeak out was a "Thank you", but honestly, I couldn't find my words. You know I am shocked when I am speechless. He then continued " The bad news is that you can't tell anyone until we announce it." I thought, ok, a few days maybe, I can handle it and so I asked when that would be. He said "October 5". That was two and a half weeks away and all I wanted to do was run down the hallway cheering. I told the Commissioner that I was more scared of my mother than I was of him and if I didn't tell her there would be consequences. He agreed I could tell my family, but that was it. So for two and a half weeks only 6 people knew, my mom, dad, brother, principal, secretary and superintendent. You have no idea how hard it was to keep that secret. People who had been checking in every day just stopped asking because they thought I hadn't received any news.
That afternoon, my coordinator from the NJ Dept of Education (NJDOE) called to get me prepped for what was about to happen and sent me several documents, including the National Teacher of the Year Application that I needed to fill out by Oct 15. No problem, it was only 16 pages! It didn't hit me until later that day when I was in New Brunswick eating dinner before going to class. It was then that the magnitude of it all hit me and the blood drained from my head and if I would have been standing, I would have passed out. I will be honest, I don't remember what class was about that night, and I think I floated home on the Turnpike. But how would I hide my smile for the next two weeks?
I got phone calls from the DOE, NJEA and current state teacher of the year, and I was overwhelmed with the plethora of information. I needed to just stop and digest it all for a minute. I found myself at the NJEA and DOE within the next week and the whirlwind had begun. I was told that my life was about to get very hectic and so it would be a good idea to put National Board Certification on hold and defer my plans for my doctorate. I would finish off the class I was taking, but that would be it for a while.
CTOYs and I am glad that I did not take from anyone else's moment. My big question was then, how would I face them all again in three weeks when they knew I was the winner?