Becoming Minnesota Teacher of the Year

Last May, I was stunned and humbled when 2012 Minnesota Teacher Jackie Roehl announced me as her successor. A bleary 36 hours of media blitz followed, and when the dust settled, I found myself on a ship that had set out to sea. Now, ten months later, the ship is starting to head back home – I’ll announce my successor May 4th – and I return changed.

Becoming Minnesota Teacher of the Year happened gradually, in fits and starts. My first speaking engagement at St. Mary’s in Winoma was a wake-up call – it was the first time I’d stood before college students with the responsibility to inspire them into the teaching profession. A lull followed – and I almost forgot I was on the ship. But then I hit a storm. After I spoke out about poverty, teacher character, and democracy at our statewide teacher conference this fall, the Tea Party picked up my speech and reacted bitterly. Education Minnesota helped me to respond to media attention in a way that kept the conversation supportive of public education. Diane Ravitch championed my message on her fabulous blog. Now, after my son goes to sleep and my homework is done, I’m reading about corporate education reform and reflecting on the role of public education in the American Dream.

This January, I joined the 2014 class of State Teachers of the Year: 54 talented, professional, passionate educators who always put kids first. We spent a week in training – technology in the classroom, education policy, teacher advocacy – and in teambuilding. Meeting these teachers transformed my professional sensibilities. I can not begin to describe the powerful hope that comes from spending time with more and more devoted educators. In the past, I always thought that I was immune to the negative media buzz that marginalizes and insults teachers – but at the same time, I didn’t realize what profound gifts were exercised in schools outside my own. Now I know. America’s teachers really have been holding our schools together for decades. I am blessed to be one of many, and honored to speak out for my fellow teachers.


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