Sunday, April 29, 2012

Never Can Say Goodbye (Jackson 5)

Thursday and Friday, April 26-27

How do you top the White House and the Gala ?  You can't. 

      By Thursday the adrenaline had worn off, and our group was beginning to disperse.  We noticed that a few people were missing at breakfast on Thursday because they had to be back at school on Friday.  It was hard to believe our week was over.  But first we still had a few things  left to do. 

      First we ended up traveling to Education Counsel for a reception and some remarks.  While the food was good, the view was spectacular and of course we could not resist posing for pictures. 

East Coast STOYs

What was left of the group on Thursday.

       After the reception, it was off to the Department of Education to get down to business.  We were going to take part in the RESPECT Project.  I just hoped they were ready for us, because we are a very dynamic group.  We divided the document and each table, along with a Department representative took a section to delve into.  After, we reported out table by table and then we were asked about leadership and how we lead.  I ended up with the last comment, and got to preaching. 
       I met up with many of the Department personnel that I met two weeks ago when the NJ CTOYs visited and the Department was still raving about our session.  I was very proud that NJ represented well, and noticed that there were changes to the document from when we had visited which reflected our input. It is nice to know that someone is listening.   

Considering that not many people had the opportunity to read the document ahead of time, I think we knocked their socks off.  As usual, our STOYs were articulate, passionate, and energized. 

My only picture with Arne, fake Arne that is.


           What can I say about this magnificent week and these incredible teachers?  After knowing each other for only five days in Dallas this January, we formed a bond that I have never experienced before.  By day one in DC, we greeted each other and picked up as if no time had passed at all.  It was family and I was home.   Every one of us is different, some are serious, some  are comedians, some are gregarious, some are shy, some are charismatic leaders whose presence fills a room, while others lead quietly.  All of us have that which makes us unique, and the best part about this group is that we accept each other for exactly who we are.  I have never seen a group who is more supportive of each other.  No one who teaches a particular subject is seen as better or more important than any other subject.  There is no pettiness, no snide comments, no "mean girl syndrome" and no one trying to tear anyone else down in order to make themselves look good.  Instead, we motivate each other, cheer each other's victories, brainstorm together, empathize with the struggles we face every day, and push each other to be the best we can be.  I know I can sit down next to any STOY, and I will always find support and positive feedback.  In a world that is all too often hostile to education, meeting this group has changed my life.  Being a STOY is not nearly as easy as you think, and in the quest to discover our role, ourselves, and what we can do to leave a positive impact on education, it can be very isolating.  These educators remind me I am not alone, and encourage me to get out there and make a difference.  If not me, who?  If not now, when?

         I wish Rebecca the best of luck as the new NTOY and I know that the journey will change her life.  Please know that we are all here to support you.  I'm not going to lie, it has been difficult watching the process as one of the 53 not chosen.  There are plenty of awards I haven't won before, but I worked my tail off on that application, as I am sure most of us did, and the rejection felt personal because I had poured so much of myself into those pages.  But, where a door closes a window opens and I know that my journey is far from over.   I will continue to fight the good fight and do whatever needs to be done in order to improve the state of education for my students.  The alternative is simply unacceptable, because education introduces people to choices and opportunities they might not have known they had, and prepares students by developing the civic values needed for good citizenship.  Democracy, after all, is not a spectator sport.    

See you all in July!


Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Lady in Red (Chris DeBurgh)

Wednesday, Arpil 25 - Smart Training and the Gala

How do you top the White House?  I don't even know if it is possible, but with our adrenaline pumping overtime on Tuesday, it was time to slow it down a little.  But just a little. 

Wednesday started with SMART training.  Since SMART was kind enough to give all of us TOYs a SMART package, we needed some training to figure out what to do with it.  We rotated through sessions and after lunch they grouped us by subject to design a page.  We were known as other, which included Social Studies and every other odd subject not included in math, language arts or science.  Needless to say we had some fun with it. 

At 3:30 on the dot, we were off to the hotel because we had a gala to get ready for.  The Institute of Peace served as a magnificent backdrop for a spectacular event.  The architecture and whiteness of the place did bring a sense of majesty and dignity.  Everything was perfect, from the music and the food, to the placement of the personalized programs at the tables.  I got to talk to all sorts of fascinating people throughout the course of the evening and our guest speakers were nothing short of inspirational.  People were still raving about Lily Eskelson's speech two days later.  As a fellow STOY, she gets it and that was not lost on on us.    All in all, it was an evening that made us feel both elegant and honored.

With Kim from Arkansas
With Josh (IL), Cara (AK), and Tyronna (NC)

Two NJTOYs in the house, MaryAnn 2010 and 2012.
With Adam (MA)

With Betsy Landers - National PTA President
NJ and NY (Katie)

With Lily Eskelson- NEA Vice President

This makes three NJ TOYs! With Katherine from ETS.

East Coast - Josh (MD) Dave (CT) Julie (RI) and Jersey!

Katie, Jersey and Kay

With Tim (OH)

Deanna (NV), Katie, Jersey, Katy, and Kristie 

Alana, Jersey, Tyronna, Bethany, Katie, Katy, Amber
I am thinking after the last two days that red should be my new signature color.  I didn't wear it much before, but I think it suits my personality! 

It was a lovely evening and I was sad to see it end.

Hail to the Chief

Tuesday April 24, 2012

              I have been searching for the words to explain the day and I keep coming up short.  Awed, proud, honored, overwhelmed, hypnotized, blown away, monumental,  and stately just don't seem to capture the magnitude of the day. 
      Did I eat breakfast?  I don't even remember.  I know I was up at the crack of dawn due to anxiety.  After donning my red suit, off I went to meet with the other teachers in the lobby, where there was a palpable feeling of excitement and nervousness.  Our leader, John Quam, led us down the block and I am sure we looked like a line of well-suited ducklings crossing the road.

 We began to go through the many checkpoints into the White House and the tension level went way up.  We were allowed to check out several of the rooms in the East Wing and as usual I got a little distracted.

 I noticed no one else was around and so I headed up the stairs to where the band was playing.  I ran into the NJ TOY from 2010 and she took a picture, but I still didn't see any of my people.

 I saw John Quam rounding up we last few stragglers and so I hustled to follow him into the holding room where the rest of my fellow STOYs were already lined up.  As I ran into the room, I slid on the wooden floor in my cute shoes and nearly wiped out.  You could hear the gasp in the room as I just avoided disaster, so of course I took a bow and explained I was distracted and therefore fashionably late.  Then I found my place in line. 

The White House staff ran us through the procedure and showed us where we would stand on the risers once and then it was back to the holding room. It was interesting to see how people deal with the stress. Some clam up, some talk too much, and I tend to crack jokes and dance. I was gently moving around to the song in my head "Rumor Has It" by Adele, when I got "Quamed". I had stepped out of line and turned to face them when they all went silent on me. "He's behind me isn't he?" They all nodded. I stopped dancing and got back in line, until John Q turned his head to look the other direction.

                    Yes John, you were right.  I am going to be the one you have to keep an eye on in Space Camp.  I do have mischievous tendencies!              

Then all of a sudden POTUS walked through the room and it was time to move.  Was that really him?  It didn't seem real.

        We proceeded forward in the line, tallest to smallest, to shake hands, take a picture and then be announced as we walked into the East Room.  It all went so fast, before I knew it, it was my turn.  I was announced and walked up to Barack and what I can only say was awe-struck.  I think I said "Good morning." He asked me what I teach and I said "High School History"  He said, "We need more good history teachers"  I think I agreed as we turned to take the picture.  He was warm, charming, a bit of a joker, and seemed genuinely happy to be there talking to us. Then it was time to go, but wait.....I still had more to say and I had been practicing!   I took a step to walk away and then turned and said, "Thank you for all you do.  Your 2008 We the People speech at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia was a game changer for me and my students.  Thank you."  He looked surprised and said "Thanks" by which point, the marine standing there had walked up to me to keep the line moving.  Next thing, I heard my name announced again and I stepped out into a room crowded with family, press, bright lights and more cameras pointed at me than I had ever seen.

 My goal, don't trip up the risers. I made it up and then had the biggest smile on my face ever. My cheeks actually hurt after a while and I am just hoping it didn't turn into a scary smile.

Finally all 53 of us were out there. What a feeling as we waited for Rebecca, the NTOY, and President Obama. 


I don't remember much of the speech because it seemed like I was outside of my body looking in.  Was I really that close to the President?  Was it real?  How did I go from an average kid who struggled in school, wore homemade clothes and hand me downs to this?  So many things going through my mind, it was like my life was flashing before me. I was torn between smiling and breaking into uncontrollable sobs.  The one thing that brought me back to reality was the fact that at some point my feet went from being in pain to numb, but I was going to smile through the pain.   Before we knew it, the speeches were over and it was time for the group shot.

We finished the picture and then the room cleared out rather quickly.  I took a few more pics, especially since Marine One had decided to land in the back yard, and then found Mom, who was the proudest woman I have ever seen. 

 What a remarkable day!

The only way to complete the afternoon was  a little fun and then high tea at the Willard. 

Hmmmm.....  President DelColle has a certain ring to it.