Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Need to Appreciate Each Other

Teacher Appreciation Week occurred recently.  This is the time of year when children give their teachers hand-made cards, parents chip in to buy gifts from the class, special treats are provided by the PTO.  I enjoy being treated like royalty for this one week each year (some years more than others).

This week is also a time where messages on FaceBook, Tweets on Twitter, Op-Ed pieces in on-line news bombard social media to ensure the public knows just how much we teachers do everyday.

As the school year winds down, I start to reflect on the past 2 years of my career.  So much has happened to me that I need to take the time to give appreciation to those educators, administrators, family and friends important to me.

First, I appreciate my husband and children more than words can say.  Without their support, I could not spend countless hours of my personal time continuing my professional growth and doing what I can to improve my field.

I appreciate Robin Bush, my Director of Special Education, who asked me two years ago to become an itinerant teacher after being in the classroom setting for numerous years.  She gave me the opportunity and the time to spread my wings as a Teacher Leader, encouraging me and supporting me along the way.

I appreciate Crystal Corum, the DHH teacher who took over my classroom.  I am so impressed with her quality teaching that she looks like a veteran teacher and not one with only a few years under her belt.  I have never worried about leaving the students in her hands.

I appreciate Denise Gross and Lisa Howe, the two people who were my rocks in my classroom.  They kept me balanced and in line.  No matter how controlling or frantic I was, they were always there for me. I would have never been able to be a successful teacher without them beside me.

I appreciate Carrie Wedding, an amazing special education teacher, who allowed me to take over her classroom and co-teach with for my KY ToY observation.  She and I have always clicked when it comes to educating students that we always gel when we are together.

I appreciate Ashland Oil and the judges for the Kentucky Teacher of the Year.  Being a special educator and winning an award that is normally won by a general education teacher still brings tears to my eyes.  I truly appreciate the judges for selecting me from a field of amazing teachers.

I appreciate my entire DHH cadre.  We fluidly work as a team to develop learning activities and special events for our students.  Their dedication to our profession is second to none.

I appreciate some special people at KDE - Johnny Collett, Todd Davis, and especially Amanda Ellis - for being open to exploring what is best for students who are deaf/HH and the teachers that serve them.  These three individuals have servant hearts and truly care about doing whatever it takes to make ALL students college and career ready.  I envision a time when ALL DHH students in Kentucky will receive the best education possible!

I appreciate the entire Board of the Kentucky Educators for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.  These dedicated individuals give up their personal time in order to coordinate PD for teachers, promote quality education for DHH students, and listen to the needs of the teachers in their region.  We may still be only a few years old, but KYEDHH has the momentum to become a powerhouse.

I appreciate Christy Delk, Joann Ernst, Tony Peavler, and Elizabeth Ward for being rock stars.  The four of them and I are developing an e-guide of TPGES specifically for teachers of the deaf/HH.  By the time we are finished, we will have volunteered at least 100 hours to provide this support that is needed as we begin to implement TPGES in the fall.

Finally, I appreciate the mysterious person(s) who saw something special in me to recommend me for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Teacher Advisory Council.  I am thrilled to start my journey with the TAC, and I hope one day I will learn who this person is and can thank them personally!

As you finish out your school year, take time to thank those in your life that make it possible to be the amazing teacher that you are!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

How to Find the Time to be a Teacher Leader and Still Teach

"Teaching is not a job; it's a lifestyle."  This is one of my guiding principles, as it is for many other educators.  This is especially true for those who are Teacher Leaders.  I always have my hands in so many projects outside of my full-time career that it sometimes becomes overwhelming.  When one project is finished, two or three more are patiently waiting for me.

As of the writing of this post, I am current president of the Kentucky Educators for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, where we are working on our upcoming annual summer conference; a member of the Kentucky Education Commissioner's Teacher Advisory Council; leading a group of itinerant teachers of the deaf and hard of hearing in the creation of an e-guide on how the new TPGES system connects to DHH teachers; and was recently selected as a member of the 2014 - 2016 Gates Foundation Teacher Advisory Council.  This doesn't even include all the mini-projects that I continuously have on my plate, such as advocating for the needs of our DHH students.  AND, I still have 10 students preschool through high school in 8 different schools on my caseload.  We still have 2 more weeks of school left.

The question that I face again and again is how in the world I can possibly do all that I do AND have time to teach and have a family.  It is a good question; I wish I knew the answer.

What I do know is that with the Teacher Leadership Movement happening across the state and the creation of hybrid teaching roles where teachers spend part of their day educating students and the other part acting as a leader, there has to be a way to create such a hybrid role for someone like me.

Most DHH teachers are the only teacher in the entire district serving all the DHH students.  How could a hybrid role exist for such a person?  Who will educate the rest of the students on the caseload while the DHH teacher is acting in a leadership role?  In my district there is another DHH teacher, but she has a full caseload in a self-contained classroom.  If I spend 2-3 hours per day teaching half of my students (I see each individually at their home school), will another DHH teacher need to be hired to teach the other half while I am serving as a Teacher Leader?  What will that person do the rest of the school day? I would be even happy to serve in hybrid capacity for 5 hours per week, dedicating this time solely to DHH Teacher Leader projects.

I am sure this is the same a question that other Teacher Leaders who are in similar specialized fields have.  How can an art teacher who is solely responsible for traveling to each elementary school in the district become a Teacher Leader in a hybrid position?  How can the sole Biology teacher at the only high school in a district become one?

As the Teacher Leadership Movement progresses and the desire for hybrid roles increase, let's think about how people like me can have the best of both worlds: continue to educate students in order to stay connected and current in the profession AND have time to work on the multitude of Teacher Leader projects and initiatives that are necessary for student success.