My experience at the Model Schools Conference at the Gaylord Resort in Potomac, Washington was an unexpected life-changer. Having the opportunity to attend an event with 5,000 educators left me speechless. Upon arrival, Noelle Morris, first READ 180 teacher and Director of Professional Events greeted all the 180 Educator winners with a warm smile and excitement for all of us. It quickly became evident that though her personality and expertise if infectious, the core of her heart and mind for teachers is one that is shared with everyone on the HMH team. You’ll meet others as you continue to read through my experience.
Seriously! Registration was an experience. Checking in that many people and depending completely on technology was entertaining. Where was my registration? What’s my name? No, it’s not Mary. Just when this teacher from Arkansas began to think she showed up at the wrong conference, the Model Schools and 180 team, solved it all- yes, much through texts. Everything turned out fine and provided many laughs at the start off the conference.
The first morning we were offered a delicious hot breakfast and an opportunity to visit with the other winners. With Noelle as our fearless leader helping us navigate through the 5000 educators, we headed into the opening ceremony and found great seats. The opening speaker, Weston Keischinck, shared uplifting stories and kept our attention the whole time. You could have heard a pin drop as he discussed that technology and automation is creating many obsolete jobs. He reminded us that if the role of education is college and career, then why do we often only drive college. As he discussed the jobs that will always be needed, though not always considered prestigious, they did connect all students into the understanding is that success and innovation is an outcome of being life-long learners. He was not only informative on stage but kept us intrigued by going into the audience and using fellow attendees for examples pertaining to his point. It was hilarious yet informative.
Tuesday, we had the pleasure of hearing from another great speaker, Linda Cliatt-Wayman. She was funny and witty and spoke from the heart. One of her most memorable points was when she shared about was a young man who had never been told he was loved or important. It was then and there she made a choice to make sure all her students knew they were loved. Everyday each of her students were told, “If nobody told you they loved you today, remember I do.” I have been doing my best to carry on Linda’s tradition with not missing the opportunity to be intentional.
The awards dinner given in honor of the winners was a perfect night. We met many people involved in not only making this night memorable, but team members such as Christine Condon, Jordan Friedman, and Onalee Smith who are a part of the HMH Social team. We met Connie Harmon who leads the Literacy Solutions team made sure to share her appreciation for everyone’s commitment to striving learners. But meeting Francie Alexander, Chief Academic Officer, a leader that has been a part of the 180 team from the very beginning allowed us to see that from the first person we met to the executive leadership team, their hearts are authentic. I shared my path into education with everyone. Though I have always had my doubt, everyone assured me that no matter where I started in my career, it was my instruction, my dedication to learning, and MY joy of helping students become successful mathematicians after not-so successful moments that not only led to being named MATH 180 Educator of the Year, but one deserving to leave the doubt behind and celebrate strengths. I left the conference with much to think about, but the most important was that my own mindset was shifted. I am so proud of my accomplishment. The icing on the cake was having my husband there to share this amazing acknowledgement with me. My award is beautiful, and I am PROUD to show it off.