Princeton in the fall is not where I expected to wind down. But it is the perfect place. This is where the final Teacher of the Year event is situated, among the changing leaves and brisk mornings. I sat outside my room and as acorns fell, I watched a busy squirrel burying them against the coming season. In the autumn of our Year of Recognition, the 2014 State Teachers of the Year spent a weekend together thinking about how we could maintain momentum through the winter while balancing our lives and families, and continue to make a difference for public education.
As 2014 Montana Teacher of the Year, I've had many thrilling experiences and opportunities to advocate for teachers and students in Montana and across the nation. Some highlights included handing US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan a handwritten letter outlining my concerns about public education; participating in a podcast for new teachers; delivering keynotes to fellow educators across the state about crucial topics; and speaking out in support of the Common Core standards via guest editorial and video production.
In fact, while the Year of Recognition for a Teacher of the Year is filled with spectacular moments such as meeting the President, the service aspect of this year has been most personally rewarding. One of the most empowering experiences of my life has been developing the voice and the opportunities to speak on behalf of educators and students. Doing this has led me to refine my beliefs, become versed in education policy, reach out to folks on the national level to initiate or continue conversations about important topics like testing and teacher evaluation, promote my belief in the intersection of the Common Core and Montana's Indian Education for All...well, there's just so much.
The Year of Recognition gave me a really good sense of possibilities. So, as I enter my Years of Service, I wish to state the following goals:
1. I will continue to advocate on behalf of Montana's teachers and students in ways which my experience and intuition guide me.
2. I will continue to be active in my Teacher of the Year networks and associations to enhance my ability to advocate for public education.
3. I will continue to push for teacher leadership models in our school structures.
4. I will continue to be vocal against nonsense testing, overtesting, testing without feedback, testing fads, and testing profiteering.
5. I will continue to teach at some level because I know that's how I can best serve my community.
Friends, I have reached the end of The Warrior Trail. I am so lucky that this trail ends here, in Montana, Big Sky Country. At the conclusion is a quiet place. Owls and barn spiders keep me company. I take late afternoon bike rides and enjoy my students again. My family laughs together as I sip coffee on a bluebird morning.
But anyone who knows me will agree I can't sit quietly for long; there is still too much to do. Public education remains the scapegoat for too many ills; educators' voices are too often unheard in important policy decisions. Thanks for accompanying me this far, and please join me on my new blog, Education Under the Big Sky, where I will write about my advocacy work for public education.
Until then, happy trails.