Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A (School) Year in Review

I am about to wrap up my 8th year in education- a number that frankly seems impossible, because the time has flown by.  Although I have worked at two schools (soon to be three- but I'll get to that later), I have spent all 8 years in Berwyn South School District 100. I consider this district to be my little niche of happiness. I am allowed and encouraged to be myself and to flourish- and yes- teaching is hard- but I get through it with the amazing friends and work family I have created over the years.

I like to consider myself a very reflective teacher- it's something that I consider vital for growth in any field- but especially the land of education. Because of this, I wonder why, until this post, I have yet to sit down at the end of a school year and record my thoughts. Getting ideas down on paper is so powerful, and maybe because this year has been so full of changes (good and bad), I am excited to embark on this journey.

This blog, which I only started last year, has given me so much. It has provided a place to grow, learn, share, be vulnerable, be excited, make connections, and more! It has given me an audience to listen and share with, that in turn, I have read blogs and learned with and from people around the globe. Things I never would have stumbled upon before have entered my life because of blogging- and I am forever grateful for that.

So without further ado- I know you’re dying to actually get down to the nitty gritty and hear about this school year. SO much has happened, some things are changing, and some things will always stay the same.

Let’s start with some really positive and exciting events. This was the inaugural year of #D100bloggerPD, which I co-founded with fellow D100 Reading Specialist Colleen Noffsinger. Safe to say that if you have read my blog before, you know about #D100bloggerPD.  This is where we select books (from all areas) and do a blog book study (kind of like a jigsaw) with other members (both teachers and admin) from around D100. We have done 3 books this year: Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller, Move Your Bus by Ron Clark, and Hacking Education by Mark Barnes and Jennifer Gonzalez. Each one has gotten better and better and the impact of #D100bloggerPD has been amazing. We have involved so many teachers, from within D100 to all the way across the country, and we are all learning and growing together. Even though the school year is ending, #D100bloggerPD will keep going- in fact, we just announced our next blog study, and it will be on the book What Teachers Make by Taylor Mali. Even better news: Taylor Mali heard about our blog study via Twitter and had reached out to help and participate in a Twitter Chat. Hello, power of Twitter! And the power of good people getting together to learn and improve themselves. Not for pay, not for recognition- just for the purpose of learning. 

Also exciting this year was I continued doing something I love- presenting at #edtech conferences- and this year I got to bring my husband in on it! We co-wrote a presentation called “Educator Expectations in the 21st Century” and were able to share this with audiences at Illinois State University’s T21CON (Teaching in the 21st Century Conference) in
September, Waukegan Google ’n More in January, and ICE (Illinois Computing Educators) in February. I love this presentation because it’s not about one buzzword in education. It’s about motivating people to be the very best they can be while fusing in some 21st century skills along the way.
There is no “trick” to teaching. There’s just good teachers who never give up and surround themselves with a PLN (professional learning network) of other like minded individuals, and then they all make a vow to never stop improving. And yes, that is as hard as it sounds. But you work at it. Constantly. I also attended EdCamp Chicago- which was held at my husband Peter’s school (Churchville Middle School in Elmhurst, IL) back in April with some D100 friends and some of my extended D205 family. It was a fantastic day of learning and growing (organized by the amazing Ben Hartman and his EdCamp Chicago Team) and days like that make it very obvious why EdCamps are so popular! 

Speaking of conferences, I get to knock something off my bucket list next year thanks to my proposal acceptance to present at the IRC (Illinois Reading Council) Conference. As a reading specialist, this conference is the top of my ladder. All the best voices in reading attend and present at this conference- and I am MORE than excited that this will be me next year. I will be presenting on Using Technology to Improve Reading Instruction- a presentation geared towards Pre-K to 3rd grade teachers that will focus on infusing technology into the core building blocks of reading instruction.

To keep the trend of getting good news going, I found out early May that I will be awarded the Outstanding Young Alumni Award from the Illinois State University College of Education in the fall during the Homecoming festivities. This is a HUGE honor and one that I am more than humbled to receive. My husband won this award two years ago and wholeheartedly deserved it- so to not only follow in his footsteps but also blaze this trail of my own is amazing. I consider ISU to be my home- a place that molded me into a student/teacher/person who never gives up and keeps growing. The motto, Gladly We Learn and Teach, sums it up perfectly. We must always keep learning in order to be the best teacher we can possibly be. I just really can’t put into words everything this University and the College of Education has done for me.  If you are a regular on my blog, you also know that Illinois State is where I met my husband (an amazing educator who I talk about ALL the time- sorry!), which is just another reason to love my alma mater. Plus, being able to be ‘lovebirds’ (the ISU mascot is the Redbird) is pretty adorable!

Speaking of my husband, being married to a teacher has its perks. And this year- the perks lined up (for only the 2nd time in 8 years) and we had the same spring break.
We were able to take our baby birds (get it…lovebirds have baby birds…) on a spring break road trip-visiting various museums over the span of five different states. I know what you’re thinking- those poor kids get to go to a bunch of museums while other kids get to go to Disney! But seriously- they loved it! Being the kids of two teachers has definitely shaped them into little adventure-loving learners. We are so proud of the kids they are growing up to be. This year, more than ever, I have noticed them growing up way too fast. 

Brayden (our oldest) just finished Pre-K and therefore starts Kindergarten in the fall. This is impossible. My baby just can’t be turning 5 and going off to elementary school. I just don’t get it.
And Olive….our feisty, take charge, run the world 3 year old- she’s keeping right up with her older brother.
It’s hard to believe (but wonderful) that we are over and done with with all things baby. No more bottles, diapers, cribs, making baby food, and sadly, no more sleepy baby snuggles in the middle of the night. Those days might be gone- but I know I can speak for Peter and say that we cannot wait to fill those days with new memories and new adventures. Watching your kids grow up is a pleasure I didn’t fully understand until now.

So many positive things happened this year that it’s hard to remember them all. I almost forgot to mention the amazing #edtech conference that my district hosts- iEngage! This is an amazing event that just wrapped its second year- both of which I was in charge of all things registration.
This includes the registration website, the schedule website, the logistics of how much food to order (eek! can’t mess that up!), and how many seats to lay down. I wrote a reflection post last year which sums up a lot of the emotions and craziness of organizing this conference. This year the conference was, again, a huge success- due in large part to the fantastic iLead team led by Jordan Garrett. We all had a role and worked together to execute the conference beautifully- of which hundreds of educators from in and out of Illinois came to learn. 

This year iEngage was a little rough for me because, unfortunately, my grandma was admitted to the hospital on the Thursday before the two day conference which happened Friday 4/29 and Saturday 4/30. I spent the evening of that Thursday in the hospital with my family, left late and arrived in Berwyn at 5am to get ready for Friday. Friday was a huge success and at the end of the day, I drove back to the hospital. Stayed late again and was back in Berwyn by 6am Saturday for day 2 of iEngage. Once again, a huge success and then my husband and I drove back to the hospital. This time we spent the night with my family in the room, and sadly, in the middle of the night, surrounded by her loved ones, my grandma passed away. I couldn’t even write in this blog post the millions of things this woman has done for me in my lifetime. I couldn’t possibly put into words the feeling you have when you experience the first death of someone close to you. I have learned to look at this in a positive light. I was only born with 2 grandparents living and I made it until I was 30 years old before they both passed. Another positive- my grandma got to know my kids and vice versa.
This lady who had such a hand in raising me got to enjoy my kids growing up. She will forever be in their memories- in fact- they talk about her often. About her love of corn dogs, banana shakes from Culver’s, playing with toys at her house, and getting to hug and kiss her goodbye. Those memories are priceless. 

After her passing, I was so fortunate enough to be able to lean on so many friends and family to get me through this hard time. Being surrounded by people who love you is a blessing- and I am lucky to say I have a lot of people who love me. A husband who is my rock, kids who, while crazy, are my world, a family of strong people, and friends who would drop anything for me. A lot of those friends are people I work with, and have come to consider family, after working at Pershing the last two years. Being able to work in a school and a district that cares about you is not something I take lightly. 

This brings me to my last change. This is, likely, my last post as a Pershing Panther. I will be moving next year to Hiawatha, another elementary school in our district. I’m excited for change and the new opportunity, but it goes without saying that I will miss the people I have gotten to know these last two years. But I’m really only going about ten minutes away- so hopefully they won’t forget about me and we can grab lunch sometime!
If you’re still reading this- wow! That was so much! When I started out, I didn’t think I had much to reflect on this year. Turns out A LOT has happened. I didn’t intend for this post to get this long, but I’m kind of glad it did. Like I said, reflecting is key to growth. Writing everything down has a sort of healing power to it and it allows me to clear my mind for summer and next year. 

I can’t wait. 

What’s next? I’m going to go enjoy the end of the school year and summertime. You’ll see me back here at the end of June when we start to promote our next #D100bloggerPD- and that will begin July 21st! 


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