It is hard to believe, but this will be my last blog as the current State Teacher of the Year (STOY). On July 8, 2016, I will be heading to International Space Camp in Huntsville, Al. There the STOYs will be joined by other teachers from all over the world. We’ll be starting camp with the Parade of the States where each STOY comes dressed in a costume that best represents their state. While many STOYs have struggled to figure out what to wear, I immediately knew that I wanted to Second Line for the parade. I have my umbrella, music, and a two minute speech ready to go. At the same time, we’ve been asked to bring small gifts from our states to exchange with the other attendees. Of course, I will be handing out Mardi Gras beads. As for the rest of our activities, I don’t have a lot of information. I’ve heard that we will possibly be launching bottle rockets, parachute zip lining, and doing helicopter rescues. The representatives from Space Camp have said several times that we don’t have to participate in these or any other activities if we are not comfortable. However, I’ve promised myself that I will take part in every activity that is offered. I’m viewing Space Camp as a chance to challenge my mind and my spirit. Be sure to follow my adventures on Facebook and Twitter!
Immediately following Space Camp, I’ll be heading to Baton Rouge for the Cecil J. Picard Symposium and Gala on July 15, 2016. The keynote speaker for the morning session is Sean McComb, the 2014 National Teacher of the Year. I’ve also been asked to speak along with Carolyn Bosely, 2016 Louisiana Principal of the Year. For the afternoon, the sessions will be presented by the Louisiana STOYs. In my session, I’ll be combining the things that I’ve learned this year along with my love for music. At the Gala, the Louisiana Department of Education and Dream Teachers will be honoring the semi-finalists and finalists for STOY and Principal of the Year (POY) along with Louisiana’s Milken Awards recipients. Then, there will be the announcements for Elementary, Middle, and High School TOYs and POYs. The final culmination will be the naming of the 2017 State Teacher of the Year and Principal of the Year. I had the opportunity to meet all of the finalists for TOY and POY in June. In addition, I was able to participate in the interviews for TOY. I truly believe that each of these finalists would serve as an amazing representative of education in Louisiana. I can’t wait to see who will be named the next STOY and POY!
Shortly after being named STOY last year, I had a meeting with Carla Jackson, the 2015 Louisiana STOY. While learning about the various facets of my new role, I asked Carla, “What will you miss about being the State Teacher of the Year?” As I’ve gone about my activities this year, I’ve asked myself that same question many times. There were many things that I considered to be “once in a lifetime” opportunities like throwing my first pitch for an LSU baseball game and being recognized as a Saints Teacher of the Week. In each of these instances, I savored each moment and now have amazing memories that I will treasure for the rest of my life.
As for the rest, I’ve had a much more difficult time answering this question. Throughout this year, I’ve been asked to speak to a variety of organizations and education stakeholders. At this point, I already have two presentations and two speeches scheduled on my calendar for the next school year. Therefore, I can’t say that I will miss this aspect of the role as it will carry on into the future. In addition, my personal learning network has grown by leaps and bounds within Louisiana and across the United States. The connections that I’ve made this year will continue into the future and will help me to further grow professionally as well as personally. My knowledge of the greatest issues facing education in Louisiana and throughout the US has also grown. As a teacher, I know that you can never close the door on knowledge gained. At the same time, I’ve learned a great deal about educational policies and how to serve as an advocate for positive change. As I go forward, I know that my voice will only grow stronger and more powerful. I’ll also be sharing all that I’ve learned as STOY in order to help other educators to discover their voices. This year I’ve also enjoyed writing my blogs. I am planning to set up a new blog under the name Stomp’nChat sometime in the next few months. I’m also excited to tell you that new doors are continuing to open. I’ve received a full tuition scholarship to Walden University. After much deliberation, I’ve decided to pursue a Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership starting in August. Before being named STOY, this was not a path that I would have pursued. However, this year has shown me the steps I need to take in order to grow as an educator and as a leader.
As you can see, I’ve come to the realization that the role of STOY really doesn’t end. Instead, the changes will be in how I continue to serve as STOY. So, what will I miss about being the current STOY? There truly is only one thing that I can’t take into the future with me- the Dream Machine. I’ve whole heartedly enjoyed driving the beautiful Mercedes Benz from Mercedes Benz of Baton Rouge this year. From its safety and technological features to the smooth way it glides over the road, I’ve relished driving this beautiful work of art. As you can guess, I love to sing along with my radio. There really is a difference between singing in the Dream Machine versus my older cars. It’s like comparing singing in your shower to singing on the stage of Carnegie Hall. The Dream Machine is definitely the Carnegie Hall of automobiles. Although I won’t be taking the Dream Machine into the future, I now have the personal goal of one day owning a Mercedes Benz. It’s nice to have dreams!
Thank you to the Louisiana Department of Education, Dream Teachers, the St. Tammany Parish School System, the Times Picayune, my students, and all of those at Woodlake Elementary School! As the song says, “I’ve had the time of my life… and I owe it all to you!”