April 15th was my deadline. There was a hustle, a strain to upload the documents. Yet, I had this quiet calm about me. Though concluding that this was a hail Mary, I recalled the words I always offer my students: “What is life without risks? Fill out the application, submit your resume, click send, fight to be heard and seen wherever you go. The worst that can be said is no, we’ve chosen another candidate.” Peering into my screen, my finger paused, then gradually moved to the mouse pad on my Mac. I clicked "Send." Unbeknownst to me, that would be the catalyst that would lead me into a surreal experience that I would never forget...ever.
In retrospect, I had never heard of NSHSS. In the fall of 2018, I received an email stating that my student had nominated me as Educator of Distinction. The district caught wind and took pictures, while writing a little blurb on the nomination in our district newsletter. Upon entrance, I started to get a flood of opportunities for both myself and my students. I thought to myself, “This society is pretty cool. How neat for them to support students AND teachers.” I nominated a student first. Then, the Educator of the Year award hit my inbox. This is where it all began.
The date was June 7th, 2019. It was still morning. I was on summer vacation, so I was taking the morning slow. Drinking my Starbucks coffee and engaging in my morning meditation and studying, I began browsing my emails. I saw the header that read:
“Congratulations! You have been chosen as the 2019 NSHSS Educator of the Year!”
My body teleported off my little black couch in my study room. A yelp of sheer shock began to emerge from my esophagus. A joyous thrill shot through my entire bloodstream. My feet took flight with my Iphone in hand. I ran down the stairs, truth be told, and almost tripped over my own excitement. I started calling out to my husband, while my two children came out of their rooms in curiosity, and perhaps fear. I curl up on the floor next to my fridge, and begin crying in disbelief. My husband later told me that he thought someone died. I just held my phone to his eyes as he frantically tried to read what threw me into this whirlwind of emotion and frenzy. He lifted me up as my kids surrounded and hugged me in the kitchen and whispered, “Congratulations honey, I knew it.”
The days leading up to Scholar’s Day 2019 were a blur of preparations, email exchanges, and careful planning. I knew the weight of this event, I knew it was going to take my life’s work to another level. I foresaw that I was going to be exposed to some incredible thinkers: students from all over the country that would make my heart sing with pride and admiration. I envisioned rubbing elbows with fellow champions for learning and education, and that I’d run into devoted family members who want the best for their scholars. Indeed, my assumptions were prophetic.
The Gaylord Convention Center was simply breathtaking. Your eyes needed to follow all the way heavenward to see the top of the ceiling in all its grandeur.
To describe every note and every detail would probably continue to fill these pages. It was an epic, timeless, and momentous occasion in my life that will live in the chambers of my heart eternally.
To judge the Passion Projects in a space full of students who are thinking outward towards the betterment of the human condition was nothing short of awe-inspiring. From the water wells in Ethiopia, to building schools in Haiti, to educating girls in Sierra Leone preached a sermon more than a thousand words. These kids were ready, ready to be the change Gandhi had once commissioned us to seek in ourselves for the world.
The Mentor Roundtables were equally enrapturing. With each set that sat at my table for 12 minutes of encouraging, coaching, and questioning, I was reminded of a sports coach, engaging in a huddle with his best players. I had my imaginary playboard out with my dry erase marker in hand. They watched me as I drafted plays for them, suggestions for them, wishes for them. It was simply incredible.
And then the Recognition Ceremony. I mean gulp, gasp, exhale…
The crowd that was brimful with scholars, ambassadors, advocates for learning, and devoted family and friends. I scanned my eyes across the front row as I was waiting to deliver what I felt was one of the most important things I have ever written. I saw my parents, my husband, my 13-year-old son, and my two closest friends and board members of my organization wide-eyed and waiting for me to begin.
What poured out of my mouth was a narrative that would be the backdrop of all things that mattered to me professionally and personally within the sacred realm of education. The room felt anointed with a KAIROS moment. The applause, the tears, my descriptions of education and justice and equality for all ricocheted off the walls and into my soul. Then to meet the families, the congregation afterwards. The hugs, more tears, the reactions from my speech that I was not ready for. Yet, in that instance, a wave of relief washed over me. I accomplished what I set out to do: inspire my audience towards change, while inspiring them to look inward only to realize that they ARE the change.
Scholar's Day 2019 was a hallmark for so many of us. The promise, the potential, the greatness, the willingness, the intellect, the creativity that comprised the people in this event were electrifying. The staff and NSHSS affiliates were obvious lovers of students and learning, admirers of the educators who engage the trenches as their life’s calling.
"Thank you" just isn’t enough; it really pales and falls flat. I plan to take this experience and recognition to a new level of revolutionary heights, as it sparked something in me. Something that perhaps needed a nudge. How perhaps I’m onto something. How perhaps every student does matter, and that the world is indeed a global classroom. That maybe Malala was right when she said one teacher and one child can change the world. Just maybe...it’s worth finding out