"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world"
Nelson Mandela

Monday, May 19, 2014

Washington DC Celebration of All Teachers

Arriving in Washington DC as the 2014 Colorado Teacher of the Year
     Oh the anticipation of arriving in Washington DC for the recognition activities for the 2014 National and State Teachers of the Year.  I am representing all the amazing teachers in Colorado, wish all of them could be here too.  Thoughts going through my mind are I cannot believe this is happening to me and my family, what an amazing opportunity we have.  
     We arrive in the evening, the other NSTOY's are out on the town taking a night tour of the monuments, luckily I grew up in the Washington DC area and have already experienced the magic of the monuments at night. 

     The first full day was incredible, we started out at the Smithsonian Institute.  We took behind the scenes tour of different museums on the Smithsonian. Some went to the Air and Space, Portrait Gallery, American History Museum and I went to the Natural History Museum for a behind the scenes look at the insect zoo, soooo cool!!  My friend that accompanied me was Flat Stanley, he might be a familiar face.  I chronicled my insect tour with Flat Stanley and sent his adventure to my sister who is a 5th grade teacher in Rhode Island. Our guide was Dan Babbitt, Museum Insect Zoo Manager.  You can always tell how good someone is in their field by the amount of passion they have for what they do and Dan was as passionate as they come. Before my visit an insect was an insect, by the time I left the museum insects were incredible creatures which rule our world. I actually have empathy for insects now.
2014 NSTOY "insect group"

This room is filled with 5 million spiders.
Cataloged butterflies.

     I was reminded how many resources the Smithsonian has for teachers.  For teachers to build a collection of learning resources go to SmithsonainEducation.org, for experiential learning for the classroom and beyond go to SmithsonianQuests.org and if you are into science visit Smithsonian Science How? at qrius.si.edu.

     After the Smithsonian we were off to the Navel Observatory to have tea with the second lady Dr. Jill Biden.  We entered the house on a cool rainy spring day with the marine strings playing a wonderful greeting to us.  We walked around the ground floor of the house waiting for the Dr. Jill Biden to speak to us.  She is also an educator who currently teaches at a community college. What an inspiration she was, it was an honor to be welcomed into her home and an honor to hear her speak so passionately about teaching.
2014 NSTOY's at Dr. Jill Biden's house.
     The second day in Washington DC it was time for us to get to work, we headed to SMART Technologies to continue our professional development on the SMART boards we each got when we were given the honor of being the State Teachers of the Year.  After the long anticipation we got to play with SMART Amp which is the new software released in April 2014 that now let tablets, iPad, phones connect with the SMART boards.  This was very exciting for me because at Fitzsimmons Middle School our 8th graders all have school issued iPad.  My group created a lesson plan that had students compare and contrast the Vietnam Memorials in the US and Vietnam.  This lesson was an eye opener for me, if you have never research these two contrasting memorials I recommend doing so.

Instruction from the amazing support at SMART.

Planning our lesson. 

     Wow I feel like I have been in DC for weeks, the time has been filled with so many amazing experiences and I have not even met the President yet. On the third day we were off to the Department of Education to be apart of "Teach to Lead Initiative" a new proposed project that we got to see before anyone else.  Don't worry you can read all about it at ED.gov or at the teachtolead.net.  The Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, "Teachers have spoken eloquently about how important it is to have a voice in what happens in their schools and their profession -- without leaving the classroom." I have to agree I wish there was more opportunity for me as a teacher to work in leadership rolls in my school and this initiative is a great start. I will elaborate on the "Teach to Lead Initiative" in a later blog.

The Department of Education

Getting ready to take on the future with fellow NSTOYs
    After that exhilarating day at the Department of Education all the National State Teachers of the Year headed back to our hotels to get ready for the great gala.  The formal celebration of NSTOY's at the US Institute of Peace.  

Ready to celebrate with my husband Bill Miner

Arne Duncan the Secretary of Education
  We had many guest speakers all showed their passion in education and reminded us all that we have a very important job to do daily and that is to make sure our students get the best education.  Some of the wonderful speakers were Arne Duncan- Secretary of Education, Lorretta Johnson- Secretary Treasurer of American Federation of Teachers, Lily Eskelsen Garcia- Vice President of National Education Association and Sean McComb the 2014 National Teacher of the Year.  The evening was grand, moments I will never forget and to watch a friend Sean McComb take the honor of 2014 National Teacher of the Year was humbling.  The honor could not of gone to a better representation of what an amazing teacher should be.

     Our final day in Washington DC we spent the day at the Executive Building and The White House.  At the Executive Building we met with Roberto Rodriquez, Special Assistant to the President, Cecilia Munoz, Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council to discuss President Obama's Early Education Agenda then the floor was open up to all the teachers to speak about what is happening in their states.  This was so exciting because I got to address the increase of cutting Physical Education, Music and the Arts and how important it is to make sure all states and district understand how important these programs are to the health and well being of our students.

Excited to have a voice. 
     Now that the important issues have been addressed, it's time to meet The President of the United States.  The recognition ceremony was held in the East Room so we had time to enjoy the dinning room, the green room, the blue room and the red room.  The ceremony was amazing we met President Obama had pictures taken then we were introduced at the ceremony.  President Obama spoke and then awarded Sean McCombs the National Teacher of the Year apple and then Sean gave an inspirational speech.  This award could not of been given to a more deserving person.  The whole week was unforgettable but to be able to share this monumental moment in my career with my husband was the cherry on top.  

2014 NSTOY

What an honor!!