At the top of the stairs I looked down at the cafetorium and saw several large TV cameras. Then I knew for sure. The first person I could focus on when I got into the room was Gloria Noyes, my mentor through this process. I went right up to her, gave her a hug, and greeted the other Maine Teacher of the Year guests. Wow! This was really happening.
The ceremony, honestly, was a bit of a blur. There were speeches by the superintendent, my principal, the Commissioner of Education, and Shannon Shanning, the current Maine Teacher of the Year. Shannon had very specific information about my time at the Hall of Flags in Augusta in her speech, and it made me think that either she has an amazing memory or she took some detailed notes as the year went along.
Once I got onto the stage, I found my husband and my daughter, Kellie, who came up from Cambridge for the ceremony. I was amazed at how much organizing had gone into the event! I felt the warmth and support from every corner of our cafeteria. Retired teachers and parents joined in to show their support. At the end, I was able to address my students. These boys and girls had helped me in so many ways through this process. During my site visit they served as greeters, panelists, and tour guides. Some were in my class during the time the selection panel visited my room. Two of the students helped me present at the Hall of Flags. And all of them had encouraged me throughout the process. It was so special to share the morning with them.
Looking back on the week it is the little gestures of kindness that have touched me the most. My mother, a teacher for over 30 years, was ecstatic! The day after she was getting phone calls congratulating her. This is someone who has spent a good deal of the last three years facing medical challenges, so this was a good week for her, as well. On Wednesday, a bus driver pulled up into the King driveway. He brought in a copy of the newspaper article that he had laminated for me. He wouldn’t give his name. It was just something he wanted to do to support me. On Friday, flowers arrived from a former Maine Teacher of the Year from Portland. My first year in the school system was the year she earned this honor, and I know what an amazing teacher she was throughout her career. Her gift and kind words touched me. Many of my colleagues came to me to tell me how much the ceremony moved them. They felt honored to be teachers and validated for their own hard work at King. Finally, the power of technology allowed many former students and their parents to reach out to me. I even heard from a student I had about 32 years ago! Such fun!
After the excitement died down a bit, I focused on getting my materials together to send in to the National Teacher of the Year program. Bill Nave volunteered to support me through this process. Thank you, Bill! I continue to keep my students involved. I showed them my portfolio, and we talked about all of work I did to get it ready for the state and how I will need to continue to refine it for the next level. They bring me energy every day. September 10th will always be a special day for me!