What I’m Hearing from Teachers of the Year

Postcards from a Great Conversation

I just escaped a nasty Iowa snowstorm for the warm rays of Scottsdale, Arizona where I am meeting the 2013 State Teachers of the Year. Often, when I’m at conferences, my primary role is to talk, to share, to present. And while I’ll do all these things by the end of the conference, I start by listening.

State Teachers of the Year

Sarah Brown Wessling with several State Teachers of the Year

I’d like to share some of the pieces of wisdom I’m hearing, in a series of short “postcards” from the conference.

Day 1 Postcard:

“I always ask myself, ‘would I want my own child in my classroom today?’”

“I cry at every graduation. It’s the culmination of all the teachers of our entire district and the work they’ve done.”

“I believe we can’t just change the narrative of our students, we have to change the narrative of our schools.”

Day 2 Postcard:

It really takes a powerful statement  to quiet a room of 54 uber-passionate teachers. This question was quickly followed by a collective holding of breath: “How many of you have ever said, ‘I’m just a teacher?’” I think most of us have said some form of this — the slight defamation of a profession that is never just. And this is why we must continue to elevate and celebrate teachers, a step to helping teachers see the magnitude of their work through a different lens.

Sarah with Rebecca Mieliwocki

Sarah with Rebecca Mieliwocki, 2012 NYOT

Day 3 Postcard :

As I was standing at the podium on the last evening of our conference and introducing two of the four finalists for the 2013 National Teacher of the Year honor. As I finished the introduction and stepped aside from the podium, I watched as every person in the room stood for our finalist. I stepped back to the microphone and added, “Really. Every teacher deserves a standing ovation.” And I meant it. Every teacher deserves to know what it feels like to have a room full of other teachers standing in awe of what she does every day. Consider the Teaching Channel community standing for each of you right now!

Sarah Brown Wessling is a high school English teacher in Johnston, Iowa. She is the 2010 National Teacher of the Year and is the Teacher Laureate for Teaching Channel. She also hosts “Teaching Channel Presents” on public television stations around the country. Connect with Sarah on Twitter - @SarahWessling.


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