I’ve spent the last week reviewing applications for next year’s Teacher of the Year. It’s hard to believe that my time as TOY is almost over. I feel like I’m just starting to get my footing, just beginning to get a sense of what this position means, just beginning to develop a real feel for my own voice.
I distinctly remember attending my first CCSSO conference in January, which convened state TOYs from all over the country. I was nervous, hesitant, excited, and just a tad bit intimidated. How would I fit in with amazing, award-winning educators from around the country? It turns out, the fit was an easy one because everyone in the room had the same sense of uncertainty. They called it “impostor syndrome”, a feeling we all had like we didn’t quite belong. We spent that week developing a sense of ownership of our role, our power, and our mission. We all began to understand that our purpose now centered around expanding our reach and our vision beyond the classroom, to embrace being a representative for teachers and students across our states and across the nation.
As I read these applications, I feel a sense of nostalgia and inspiration. I am taken back to last March, when I sat in the darkness of my office, exhausted from teaching all day and coming home to my five-month old (who still woke every 3-4 hours) at night. I remember trying to formulate and articulate my teaching philosophy, my plan for strengthening the teaching profession, my message to the nation. I had been teaching for 17 years at that time and had rarely ever been asked to present these deeply held beliefs on paper. It was a daunting and empowering task, but one that helped me define who I was and express that to an audience…the first of many opportunities I’ve had to do just that in presentations, speeches, and panel discussions.
My year is not nearly over (my calendar reminds me), and yet, I am mentally preparing to welcome the next Teacher of the Year into this role. I have a deep desire to lead and guide this person into their new world of opportunity and advocacy. Reading these applications, reflecting on the experiences I’ve had this year, and missing, deeply, the connections I have with my students makes me eager to get back into my classroom. Yet, I can’t pretend that I will be the same teacher I was when I left and that is the most amazing part of all of this. I have so many thoughts, plans, dreams for myself, my students, my school, my district, and my profession. Some might think that being named to this role is a culmination of a career devoted to teaching and learning. Instead, this role has been a starting point, a doorway, leading me into an entirely new phase of my career. I can’t wait to open that doorway for another amazing RI educator.