The Educators of the Years"A man [or woman] who can make hard things easy is the educator." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, American author and my daughter's namesake
I was young when I started teaching at Timber Creek Regional High School in Erial, NJ. I was immature and impressionable. Part of me cringes when I think of how I acted in those early years, but most of me laughs because the blunders I made and the friends who helped me through them, made me the person I am today.
As teachers, we have to administer student surveys at least once a year. The most gratifying responses I ever received were when students would say that it was clear that I loved what I taught, or that I obviously cared for my students. I always thought those 2 qualities-- loving what you teach and loving those you teach-- superseded any other qualifications a teacher could embody.
We crown a new Educator of the Year every spring at Timber Creek. I am proud to be friends with most of the winners from the past 16 years. I've participated in their ceremonies and listened in awe to their acceptance speeches. But mostly, I sit in the audience thinking about what each of these EOYs means to me. That might seem self-involved, but since my teaching experiences shape me daily, the person selected as EOY is no small part of how I view the profession and thereby how I view my own daily goals. So, after thinking about this next group of people, I've added a qualification: 1) loves what they teach, 2) loves who they teach, and 3) is ridiculously generous and thoughtful. I got the first two qualifications down and I'm inspired by these friends of mine to strive for the 3rd. Here are the people making the hard things easy:
Jen Pavelik and Lauren Griffin teamed up to send me gifts over the past week. The gifts are not just little trinkets. They were bookmarks, cat socks, and a *cross-stitch kit that reads, "That's What She Said." These ladies clearly know me. Both of them have seen me through some tough times and made those times a little more bearable.
Suzanne Nordone somehow finds the strength to help everyone around her even through her own health issues and personal struggles. She helped Abbe raise money to send my family meals. She also sends me loving and much-appreciated texts, often.
Jack Campbell, my co-teacher, has had to pick up and teach our class by himself...again. If you don't know, the past few years have been a little crazy for me. In 2016 I went on maternity leave for Zoe; in 2017 I had liver failure and facial palsy from eating bad sushi; in 2018 I went on maternity leave for Emmy and Michael had brain surgery. And now...I was diagnosed with cancer during the pandemic. So Jack is left to teach alone almost every year. I keep waiting for him to request a new co-teacher, but he has stuck by side and never complains. More than that...he is my good friend. Jack cracks me up and while we'll never agree politically, there is no better person to vent to. There are days when Jack is the only other adult I get to see and I'm glad he helps me feel like a kid.
These people have all been Teachers of the Year. I am proud to be a part of their very busy To-Do Lists.
"Make it a great day, or not...the choice is yours." And if your day includes any of these people, it will likely be a great day whether you choose it or not.
P.S. There are several other friends of mine who have been named Educator of the Year including, Beth Reilly, Dottie Deich, John Perkis, and Mr. Hart. They will be included in other posts. Stay tuned and Thank You!
*Jen and Lauren did not get me the cross-stitch kit; the English Department did. In addition to the cat socks and bookmarks, Jen and Lauren got me a really cute tee shirt that I plan on wearing for the rest of the quarantine. :-)