My sabbatical as the Indiana Department of Education Teacher in Residence has come to a close. Ten months ago, I embarked on a mission to “Celebrate Teaching” in Indiana. Wearing my flight suit from space camp, I entered over 900 classrooms and convinced powerful students to join me on my quest. The “memory hook” I pulled out of my flight bag was an enormous gem that represented the immeasurable value of teachers. As my journey ends, I’m grateful that over 25,000 students in Indiana are ready to carry on my mission by treating their teachers as priceless, valuable gems. In addition to school visits, my mission took me to universities, churches, businesses, and community organizations to deliver speeches of hope for our teaching profession. In every setting, I was greeted with warmth and enjoyed the thrill of meeting incredible people.
In fact, after only a few short months, I found myself facing difficult decisions. Numerous, well-meaning people tried to convince me to leave my classroom so I could “widen my impact,” experience “more power,” and “make more money.” As I reflected on their comments, I came to an enlightening revelation. I realized that “power,” is too often defined by a job title, and my worth isn’t determined by a paycheck. Unfortunately, in education, we have perceived hierarchies that often leave educators feeling helpless. Yet, as I put over 8,000 miles on my trusty mini-van this year, I noticed that the people who had the greatest influence weren’t necessarily the people who held the fancy job titles. Instead, true power seemed to lie with those who had the ability to empower others. As I watched teachers kneel beside students and push them to go farther than they ever dreamed possible, I saw what “power” really meant. I also found myself telling others that my value is not based on what I make; it’s determined by my ability to give to others.
Which leads to why I choose to end the “Celebrate Teaching” blog by honoring the staff of Riverview Middle School. Anyone who has heard me speak this year knows that I am empowered by others. In fact, my “professional family” at Riverview Middle School is constantly raising the bar and pushing me to be better. Without their guidance and influence, I would never have had the courage to embark on this year’s mission. Although I enjoyed the journey, the message from mission control is now loud and clear; “It’s time to come home.” Which is why I’m “going forward” to my classroom at Riverview where I will remain grounded so I can, in turn, empower others for lift off.
How fitting that my final act as the Teacher in Residence was to visit Riverview and celebrate its Four Star School status. I am very grateful that the entire school is finally being recognized because the students and staff have deserved those accolades all along. This “Teacher of the Year” journey has never been about my capabilities; I’m simply reflecting what the Riverview Raiders have taught me. And so I end my mission by saying, thank you, Riverview, for helping me define “power” and “value.” I’m headed home to my classroom because that’s where I know I belong. Riverview Middle School, today I celebrate you – mission complete.