Saturday, September 26, 2015

NCAE Instructional Leadership Institute

As a member of NCAE, I have taken full advantage of the wonderful trainings offered as I prepared for the National Board process.  I, also, have participated in various other seminars or professional development offered by the organization.  However, I must say that this summer's inaugural Instructional Leadership Institute blew me out of the water. The group of teachers gathered were not only passionate about their calling, but they were devoted to improving themselves as professionals and learners, as well as helping colleagues improve.  It was beautiful for this teacher to behold.

These educators were hard at work deep diving and aligning their lessons with the Common Core and Essential Standards as I walked into the "house that teachers built."  Upon entering this rigorous work session, my heart overflowed that I was honored to have an invitation to speak to this group and was more than impressed with the rigorous work these professionals were putting into refining their craft. They inspired me to be better and made me yearn to be preparing for a new year in my classroom! The reflective questioning they were asking about their own practice as they were redefining themselves as teacher leaders in their content areas was inspiring and should be a common practice for all educators.

I owe a BIG thank you to Elic Senter who opened the invitation and treated me with fine southern hospitality. One of the best parts was that Elic was a former NC Teaching Fellow himself, so we were kindred spirits from the beginning!  I can't wait to see the bright future of these NCAE Instructional Leadership graduates and the gains NC public education will make because of them!

Friday, August 14, 2015

NC State Beginning Teacher Institute

If you haven't been to the Friday Institute at NC State University, wait no longer!  On July 14, 2015, I had the honor of being the keynote speaker for the first day of the Beginning Teacher Institute as well as a session presenter.  I was enamored with not only the beautiful facility but the amazing organization and attention to detail the NC State faculty had executed to create this opportunity for North Carolina's beginning teachers. 

For this event, I spoke on one of my passions: overcoming the negative perceptions of public education.  My goal was to encourage the beginning teachers to be positive about their calling and make meaningful relationships with their students.  Amazingly enough, these beginning teachers inspired me far more than I could have inspired them. Their vivacious personalities and zeal for their craft was so apparent. If anyone is ever in doubt of the condition of beginning teachers in North Carolina, they need only catch a glimpse of this institute to be reaffirmed in the validity of these professionals.

If you are a beginning teacher in North Carolina, REGISTER for this event next summer.  It will be well worth your time!

Thank you for this incredible opportunity, NC State College of Education!

Meet Julie:  A fellow Appalachian State University Teaching Fellow Alumni.  

Surry County Schools' Freshmen Academies

     Freshmen Academies are nothing new to me in my ten years of teaching.  I actually played an integral role in a valiant attempt at a Freshmen Academy in Ashe County.  What we did just didn't work well for us, so we did what every good school does:  reflect and change. This is exactly what I saw happening in Surry County Schools during my visit there on July 13th, 2015.

     Each area high school was gathered at North Surry for a review of their Freshmen Academy visions and reflecting on how they can improve and refocus instruction.  The efforts of their collective reasoning was empowering to veteran and novice educators. These teachers were REALLY working together for the benefit of the students.  Each individual was putting aside his or her own agenda to create and implement best practices. The support from the central office staff was phenomenal.  

     I had the pleasure of meeting the Director of Teacher Quality, Ms. Sonia Dickerson and the Assistant Superintendent, Dr. Reinhardt. The work these two ladies put into the planning process of a phenomenal professional development day is to be commended.  Teachers were treated as professionals and provided a wonderful lunch.  My time with them was rejuvenating and encouraging as to the wonderful things happening in North Carolina Public Schools.  Thank you, Surry County Schools for allowing me to join such a wonderful day of professional development!

FUN FACT:  This is Sonia Dickerson who happens to be the niece of my teacher idol and
former cooperating teacher, Polly Jones. So nice to meet someone I have heard so much about! :)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching: A Jewel for North Carolina Educators!

   Beginning my journey as the North Carolina Teacher of the Year, I was amazed at how many opportunities were presented to me.  The first of many was the opportunity to attend NCCAT in Ocracoke for a week. I literally loaded up a colleague and left my house at 5:30 A.M. to treck across our great state to spend a week of professional development with educators I knew and many I did not.
     As I am usually transparent, I will continue to be as such with you and let you know that the dread had overtaken me for a season. Worry, fear, and uncertainty gripped me for most of May and June.  I just did not know what to make of this new role. As an English teacher, travel logs and reimbursement forms are things of my nightmares. To think I would be consistently calculating almost had me in hives! However, as the waves found their way onto the Ocracoke Island shore from the Pamlico Sound on June 22, 2015, I began to transform my worry and fear into hope and excitement. The North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT) at Ocracoke is where I found my rejuvenation and inspiration for the coming year.
     Throughout the week, I formed relationships with educators and learned that we all truly were in the same "boat" whether we were in Raleigh, Asheville, or even Maine! Regardless of where we found ourselves in our professions, one thing rang true for each of us:  our LOVE for our profession.  In working with the United State Coast Guard stationed in Hatteras, we learned that many are doing "less with more" and not being negative about it.  They are fighting for their needs, yet they know their calling is as important today as it will be tomorrow.  I found great comfort in that.  It is amazing how little we realize about our own perspectives until we look closely at others.  The importance of my position as the NC TOY became apparent during our mapping session and tour of the Coast Guard station.  Teachers need a positive voice encouraging us to keep meeting the needs of our students and giving our best every day.  I am that voice this year, and I hope to inspire my colleagues as I was inspired at NCCAT.  

North Carolina Educators:  If you haven't utilized the professional development opportunities at NCCAT, make this year the year you do! It is well worth the sacrifice of your time and travel to be rejuvenated in your profession.

Below is a picture of our group of teacher leaders.  I cannot wait to see where this year takes these incredible educators!


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

"Good seasons start with good beginnings" (Sparky Anderson)

It is still rather surreal and overwhelming to think that I am the one chosen to represent the 95,000 educators in North Carolina.  My emotions range from excitement to utter panic.  I keep asking myself if this is really happening.  I do not feel worthy of this position, yet I know God has called me to this place for a reason.  My desire to make a difference and a positive impact on North Carolina Public Education is great.  Greater than even that, though, is my desire to inspire the teachers of North Carolina to see their potential and the impact they have, regardless of whether they feel their voices are being heard.

Many people have asked me what I look forward to most about the coming year as well as what I dread most.  If I am being honest, I am devastated at the "loss" of my students for a year. If you know me well, you know that my students are my life-blood.  They are the reason I teach, and a year without them every day just feels empty, void, and just plain wrong. However, the excitement of learning more about North Carolina Public Education, spreading hope and affirmation to the teachers of North Carolina, and being able to meet and learn from the fantastic educators of our great state has me so excited I can hardly sleep.  Seriously.  Sleep has evaded me since July 1. My peppy personality is in overdrive, and I cannot help but smile when I think of the possibilities this year holds.  

There are so many experiences that I have already had as the 2015-2016 NC TOY before my "official" start date of July 1, 2015. So, I will recap those for you in the coming month and post about the current happenings as well!  I am going to leave you with a "sneak peak" of my Teacher of the Year office that my high school (Ashe County High School) has so graciously provided for me.  I am most excited that my students can still leave notes for me and drop by to see me when I am there.  I look forward to the coming year and hope you will follow me on this incredible journey!

Please excuse the mess as this office is still "under construction"!! :)