Saturday, July 21, 2012

Fly Me to the Moon (Frank Sinatra)

July 14-20

Fly me to the moon
Let me sing among those stars
Let me see what spring is like
On jupiter and mars...

  I seem to be spending a lot of time in airports this month.  After the recent success of Atlanta still fresh in my mind, my week began with a trip to Omaha, Nebraska, although at times I thought I would never get there. After being trapped in the purgatory known as the Atlanta airport, I finally made it. You see, this time of year we have extreme heat and humidity which leads to some wicked thunderstorms and lots of travel delays. I was traveling to the NNSTOY Conference (National Network of State Teachers of the Year) to meet the extended family. The bond you develop with the STOYs in your year is deep, almost like a duck imprinting (or a werewolf for you Twilight fans), and they become a lifeline throughout your year of recognition. Just when things tend to become too stressful at home and no one seems to get it, the STOYs are scheduled to meet and it is like a breath of fresh air to be able to talk to people who are going through some of the same things you are. I was curious about whether that same bonding would happen with STOYs from other years. I certainly hoped so. Dave Bosso and I (2012 CT STOY) and I went as representatives from our class to see what this group was all about and what roles we could play in it.  It was going to be a tight squeeze in our schedules because we would only have a day between Omaha and Space Camp.  I hoped that the trip was worth it.     

The hotel was very cool and had a running stream, complete with koi, in the center of the hotel.  The view from my window wasn't bad either.


 It was a little awkward at first, as STOYs tended to congregate with those in their class or region, but I soon met STOYs from all over the country going all the way back to 1975.  What a wealth of experience and knowledge were in that room!  Dave and I also had lots of warnings about Space Camp and the awful coffee, plastic covered beds, and abundance of tater tots.  After the group warmed up to us a little, we were welcomed with open arms to the extended family and we jumped right in.     

     The NNSTOY organization began as a way to help STOYs as they went from their year of recognition to their years of service, and primarily focused on charitable work.  More recently, STOYs have signed on and realized the potential of this amazing group of educators.  They have incorporated, received a grant from the Gates Foundation, and are setting out to advocate for the profession and elevate the teacher voice through teacher leaders.  The future is bright for this organization and within a few years, I think it will be the go to place for anyone who wants teacher leaders to be a part of their task forces or policy making groups.

     We had some great speakers including Jeremy Burrus from ETS, Molly Lasagna from the American Institutes for Research, and Peter Cunningham from the Dept of Ed, but it was the speech by Katherine Bassett, 2000 NJSTOY and the new Executive Director of NNSTOY, that caught my attention and showed me the vision and future of the organization as outlined in the strategic plan.  I expect nothing but great things with her at the helm.  We Jersey Girls get things done!

We did a lot of work in groups to tackle a number of issues.  Here I was nominated to do the share out for our table.

     Although the heat was awful, we managed to get out in the evenings to get some food and a sense of downtown Omaha, which is adorable.  It was just our luck that the 2012 NE STOY Luisa Palomo Hare happens to live in town and showed us the spots for good food.  Although she couldn't make it to the conference because of school obligations, she and her husband, Mark, joined us for dinner one evening.


     Little did we know that while we were out catching up with Luisa, the other STOYs had hatched a plan for us newbies.  They asked Dave and me to give the closing remarks of the conference, and we were happy to do so. Dave and I talked about why we came to Omaha, what we saw as the potential for the group, and I left the group with a challenge to reach out to their current STOY, as many of them are going through a time of transition right now and could use some guidance.   I can only speak for myself, but I know this is an organization I want to continue working with.

     Right after the closing session, it was time to hop on another series of planes and come home.  More bad weather delayed flights, but this time I went through Detroit rather than Atlanta.  Things could have been really bad had I missed my connection, which was also delayed, because all the shops in the airport were closed.  As it was, with the delays, I managed to roll in at home by about 2:30 am.  I would have a little over 24 hours before I had to take off again.

     Luckily, I have people who keep an eye on me.  Being single means I eat a lot of take-out and have a freezer full of food I can microwave, but on occasion my friends feed me.  I was feeling like an overcooked piece of pasta for a large part of the day, but I was invited to dinner with my DKG President and friend, Mary Zaccardi, and her husband Frank.  He made a great meal of mussels and pasta and the smells alone had me salivating.  While he was cooking, I got to debrief with Mary and let her know some of the things I had been up to.  It was a short visit, but necessary one, because she also had part of my costume that I would need for Space Camp.  I promised to bring her some astronaut ice cream when I returned.  Notice how clean my plate is.  Thanks Mary and Frank!

The next day it was off to Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, but a series of delays meant that I didn't roll in until almost 2am.  I couldn't wait to see all the STOYs again, so much had happened in just the 10 days since I had seen them.   What a week it would be! 

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