In January of this year, I found out I had been nominated for Massachusetts Teacher of the Year by a friend and former teacher, Mary Ginley (thanks Mary!). It was a long and arduous process to take on, but I decided to do it - and I am really glad I did. I made it to the finalist round with 5 other teachers, and though I was disappointed I didn’t make it to the end, applying was a learning process that involved a lot of reflection and writing about teaching and community involvement. Here are some of my takeaways from the process.
1.My community rocks.
When we moved here from New York, I knew that it would be a big, but healthy, change for our family. At the time there were 4 of us, and I was pregnant with our third; we wanted to be near family. My husband grew up in a small city and I loved the city, so we thought it would be a big adjustment. It wasn’t as difficult as we thought it would be. Our new community welcomed us and brought us into its fold. As the years have passed and I have become more involved in different ways in the community, my time is pulled in different directions more and more. Through this process, though, I realized that my community is pretty amazing in many ways, and that I am thankful we live here.
2. I love being a teacher.
Obviously, I knew this, but it’s really good to be reminded of it. Sometimes I wonder what I would do if I didn’t teach; what would it be like to have a job that didn’t have a rigid schedule, a ton of preparation time, and dealing with 12-14 year olds all day. I have often thought about going for my PhD and teaching at the college level. But through this process, I was reminded of how much I love this age, even when they’re at their most challenging. I’m not sure I could leave the classroom behind.
3. Impostor Syndrome is real.
Sometimes I have severe doubts in my teaching - even after 21 years. I’m probably not the only one to have this “Impostor Syndrome” . The process of applying for the TOY was reaffirming because the people I told were so supportive and believed in me wholeheartedly. I’m sure I will still have days where I will doubt myself, but knowing people have my back no matter what will always be something to make me feel better.
4.The process is random.
TOY is a little random. I definitely felt honored to be nominated and to make it to the last 6. All throughout the process, though, I kept thinking about all the wonderful teachers I know (This goes back to the impostor syndrome, of course), and all the great teachers there must be in our state. I just happened to be lucky that Mary believed in me and took the time to complete the nomination.
5. My biggest fans are my parents.
I sort of knew this of course, but over the last few months, I have really felt my parents’ love and pride in me. Or as my dad put it: “Te voy a nombrar la joya del año” - “I’m going to name you jewel of the year.” His and my mother’s words and support, and that of my husband, kids, and good friends, is enough to keep me going for a long time. Being the JOY is better than being the TOY.
Here is to all the amazing teachers out there! Keep doing what you’re doing, and have faith in yourselves. You are NOT impostors, your're the deal deal and you are all JOY to someone!