The Washingtons Go to D.C. Day three

 

 

Today, we went to the headquarters of SMART Technology. We were split into two groups. In one group, we watched a demonstration of Notebook 14. Then we got into smaller groups and practiced using it. In the next group, we learned about SMART Amp technology that allows the students to collaborate in some really cool ways. Oh, and if any of my students are reading this, I understand how to work the 3D capabilities now. We can play with it when I get back. The day ended with the groups teaching lessons using the technology. Some of the STOYs left to meet with their state legislators. I didn’t, but we’ll be back in D.C. this summer, and I might try to meet with them then. I didn’t have time to set that up.

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We came back to the hotel and got ready for our casual family dinner and program. The food was amazing! The desserts were plentiful and delicious. Crystal West, one of my students from Memphis, goes to Howard University, and she got a chance to join us for dinner. I was so happy to  see her! Each STOY had to stand and introduce his or family, and I was honored to introduce Ricky and Crystal. Then, a video was played to honor us. Pictures of us were shown from our announcement ceremony, and there were pictures with our students. Side note: When I went to interview for state, Katy Perry’s “Roar” was played over and over on the radio. I don’t know why they played it so much. It pumped me up to go in there though. I felt good afterwards, and it was played a bunch of times on the drive home. After I was announced, I got in the car to that song playing again. Tonight, when it was time for Texas, the first song ended, and “Roar” was played on my time. Clearly, this is my year to ROAR!

TOY Presentations

TOY Presentations

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We then got our “presidential instructions” and then lined up by height. That’s the order in which we’ll meet him. Shortest first. I’m not too short, but I won’t wait long.

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Then, we had a welcome for the STOY babies that were born this year. We pitched in and bought them gifts. Kathy from New Jersey embroidered the blankets. “My favorite TOY is my daddy, “insert name” He is the 2014 “insert state” TOY. Too cute!!

We had a cool planning session in the lobby before going to our rooms. We’re planning to do something cool after the White House ceremony on Thursday. I think we’re the first class to do it. Lots of personality in our class!

Tomorrow, there are some big things happening. I’ll check in. Stay Orange!

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The Washingtons Go to D.C. Day Two

Today began with all of the STOYs boarding the bus to go to the Smithsonian Castle. We had a short program and then we broke into our small groups. My group was the Smithsonian Museum of African Art. The curator took us on a journey of all the wonderful pieces from many countries in Africa. We saw everything you could imagine and learned about how many artists studied African art as a source of inspiration. Picasso was one such artist. I got to play on camera in the teaching studio and I learned that stars make noise. Yes, stars in the universe vibrate, and we got to hear them. We even got to hold some pieces of art. Then, we got to see the parts of the museum that the public doesn’t see. We even got to travel underground back to the castle. Oh, and 96% of this particular museum is underground! We went back and networked and then had lunch. Here are a few pictures.

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Then, everybody rushed to check hair and straighten ties. We were on our way to the Biden residence. One thing most of us were worrying about was our failing cell phone batteries. We had gone all day and wanted to be sure we had enough juice for pictures. We were spiffed up and excited as we rounded the corner to the mansion. There was a huge barricade. STOP This Area is Protected By The Secret Service. There was a gate and serious looking people beside it. There were more warning signs. A police officer boarded the bus and checked identification. Then another one boarded and checked us again. We went through that gate and then another. More warning signs. The bus stopped and a secret service canine was brought out to sniff the outside of the bus. They were making SURE our STOY bus didn’t get mixed up with the THUG teacher bus! Ha! We were so excited with all the buzz. It was some real 007 kind of stuff!  It was drizzling and my phone was blinking that slow blink of death. We got off the bus to be searched and to walk through a metal detector. Then we waked through the iron gate that allowed us to walk up to the house. The house! Aaah! Gorgeous! We were all giggling and saying “Wow” over and over. (Or maybe that was just me.) We walked up to the house, and as we approached, a military string quartet (I think it was a quartet) began to play. A man in a suit was on the porch. “Welcome, Monica, and congratulations! We are so thrilled to host you. I’m from Texas too!” Stupidly, I said, “You know my name!” I’d forgotten all about that big white badge I was wearing. Inside, it was so pretty and homey. Their family photos were out… weddings, vacations, grandbabies, and I thought, “They seem like regular people.” In the dining room there were hors d’oeuvres (is that the correct French spelling?)  The deviled eggs were divine! Dr. Biden wasn’t there yet, and we just walked from room to room eating, looking at pictures, and listening to the band. We took a few photos and pinched ourselves. The sunroom was pretty, and I put the orange ribbon on top of Dr. Biden’s book that was on the table. Then, they asked us to line up for our picture with her. There was a professional photographer, but Dr. Biden didn’t mind us having our cell phones. I was introduced to her as “Monica Washington from the great state of Texas” by the same man from earlier. She hugged me and thanked me for coming. Once we all had our pictures, she came back to the living area to speak. She said that she was proud of us. She said that she is one of us. She is giving her final exam soon and has essays to grade too. She talked about how teachers go above and beyond in a way that she doesn’t think many other professions do. She said that teaching is a 24 hour a day job. Kids are always with us… either in our teacher bags or on our minds. She spoke about each finalist and said she was honored to have us in her home. Then, she started shaking hands and hugging us. I went and told her that I teach English too. Told her that I agreed with what she said in the program. “Through writing we really get to know students.” She told us about how students have some heavy issues and often turn to us. She was so gracious. We took a group picture on the front steps and she got right in the middle of us for the picture. Then she told us that we could walk and see the grounds. I took that time to tell her that I wanted to honor teachers at home with my ribbon and she said, “Yes. Let’s do another picture.” She hugged me again and hugged my friends. I realized then that yes, she is a regular person just like us. She’s a regular person in an extraordinary position… just like us. I will never forget today.

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Then, I met up with Ricky who had been hanging out with Chris Reilly all day. ( husband of the IL TOY) Katherine Bassett who is the amazing CEO of NNSTOY read my blog yesterday and contacted me this morning. She wanted to hire a driver to take the two of us to all the sites Ricky missed yesterday. So, I threw on jeans, ran down and gave her a big hug, and got chauffeured around with Ricky! I will be forever grateful. I told you a lot, but I couldn’t capture it all. This was a beautiful day. This is the fabulous network that I will be a part of for life. I got to have a once in a lifetime experience with my friends. I got to sightsee with Ricky. I have a friend in every state and territory. I got to honor you. That was a bit jumbled, but so is my brain. I love you all! Orange…Jill Biden knows about that Orange. You were with me the whole way.

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The Washingtons Go to D.C. Day one

When Ricky and I go somewhere we scope it out in advance. Are there stairs? Are the doors standard width? Do the elevators work? What’s parking like?  When we started planning for this trip, we were a bit worried about the travel. How would the plane ride go? We’ve never flown together, and flying can be very stressful for someone with a disability. You have to give up your chair, and you are completely at the mercy of others. That would be like giving someone your legs and trusting that everything will be OK. However, the travel went fine. The trip went smoothly, and we hopped into our taxi to come to the hotel. I was reunited with my state teacher friends, and we all got comfy to go to the opening reception and the city tour. And then the buses came. Buses… with steps. We don’t do steps. I knew that everything would be taken care of in terms of the rest of the week, but I didn’t think to double check about the reception and tour. I was doing a million things to prepare, and I didn’t follow up. Of course he told me to go on. They called him a taxi. He said to go with my friends and he would catch up. I got on the bus, but I felt bad as he sat there. (No, he was not going to let me stay.) Other teachers offered to go back with me, but I thought he would catch up. I went to the reception. No Ricky. He couldn’t get a taxi there. It didn’t show. Then they called a shuttle. It didn’t show. So I attended the reception and the tour without him. It was bittersweet. I was glad to be with friends, but he
deserved to be there too. I did not enjoy today as I should have. I knew Ricky was back at the hotel ordering room service that he didn’t want. He was the one supporting me when I was going through this process. He’s a history buff and wanted to see the city today. 

     This week is about friends AND family.

Tomorrow, I have a day at the Smithsonian and then a reception with the Bidens. THEN, I’m going to see the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, The MLK Memorial, and the WWII Memorial all over again… with Ricky. I’ll post more pictures tomorrow.

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Platforms, Perks, Frustrations…and super teacher?

Has anyone ever asked you to tell them what a movie or a book is about and you are literally stumped?  It’s not that you don’t know what they are about but rather so much happens in them, there are so many twists and turns, that you have no idea where to begin.  Well, that’s exactly how I feel sitting down to update you on what has happened since the last post.  If I were explaining my very own movie, I would have to say something jumbled like this:  There was a trip to Arizona, a birthday, canceled flights, recognition at the TASA Midwinter Conference, a ring, a robbery, a conversation with the commissioner of education, a feature story in a magazine, a public service announcement, and lots and lots of school work in between.  See?  A whirlwind is what it has been.  This is what happens when you are two posts behind.  I’ll try to divide this post into sections, (or should I say mini chapters) so that I don’t sound like I’m relaying that jumbled movie or book to you.

Let’s start with my platform and the work.

In January, I spent a week in Scottsdale, Arizona where I met the other state teachers of the year.  In them, I saw so many of the great teachers I know and have worked with over the years.  I learned that we all take representing you quite seriously and see our role as a tremendous responsibility.  In Arizona, we met many past national and state teachers of the year and had a great week of working and learning about what our responsibilities are for 2014.  We learned so much about the side of education that teachers rarely get to see.  We learned that all too often teachers are not in the room when major legislation about education is being passed.  I left Arizona a different person and a different teacher with a clearer mission.  I plan to enlighten teachers about the importance of exercising their powerful voices.  I don’t think I realized our power until I received this honor.  Jeremy Wagner and I have kicked off the process by having a conversation with Michael Williams, commissioner of education, about ways teachers can be more plugged in to what is happening in Texas public education.  That conversation went very well, and we are both excited about what will come of our ideas.  Also, being honored in Arizona inspired me to look for ways to share the feeling of being honored.  Therefore, I will be looking for awards that my colleagues qualify for.  Then, I’ll nominate them so that they have a glimpse into what my honor feels like.  Remember, for me this is about improving education for kids and sharing this honor with you.  By the way, before I left Arizona, I tied a tiger ribbon in an orange tree there.  I’m still taking ORANGE ALL OVER.  Next month, we visit the White House. Whoot!

Arizona beauty!

Arizona beauty!

State Teachers of the Year 2014

State Teachers of the Year 2014

 

Tigers were here!

Tigers were here!

Tiger ribbon

Tiger ribbon

Perks and Recognition

My flight to Arizona began with a lady coming over the intercom and announcing that American Airlines was honored to have Monica Washington 2014 Texas teacher of the year on board.  I took pictures with the pilot and the really nice flight attendant who has had the honor of being flight attendant of the year twice.  That was a cool experience.  I got a similar announcement on the plane coming home.  While in Arizona, Katherine Bassett, executive director of the National Network of State Teachers of the Year, gave me the honor of writing a blog post on the NNSTOY website that would sum up the experience of becoming a member of NNSTOY while in Arizona.  http://www.nnstoy.org/category/stoy-blog Also, Jillian Howard and I were recognized at the TASA Midwinter Conference (on my birthday, Jan. 27th) and Jennifer Garrido, coordinator of the Texas teacher of the year program, introduced us to vendors and got us a few freebies.  Thanks, Jennifer!  Jill bought me a cool super teacher shirt that I love. Also, my husband Ricky and I were featured in the February Four States Living Magazine.  Thanks so much, Suzy Turner and Robin Rogers!  Finally, in faculty meeting, I was presented a state teacher of the year ring.  I absolutely love it and will wear it with pride forever.  Special thanks to my superintendent, Paul Norton and John Barbe of Graduate Sales.

Special treatment on the  plane.

Special treatment on the plane.

State Teacher Ring

State Teacher Ring

A Free SAT game from a vendor

A Free SAT game from a vendor

From Four States Living Magazine

From Four States Living Magazine

Frustrations

Well, I will always remember my 39th birthday because I spent it stranded alone at the airport.  I thought I was coming home late on my birthday, but NO!  The strangers who were stranded with me serenaded me though.  That was nice of them.  In fact, I didn’t have much luck at all with flights during this time period.  I spent days preparing to speak in Austin at the Educate Texas conference only to have that flight canceled too.  Jeremy Wagner, 2013 TOY, has told me to avoid the airport whenever I’m speaking within the state.  Yep, that Jeremy is a smart one!  However, the thing that was even more frustrating than flight problems was having our house broken into and our belongings taken.  Ricky and I are such givers that having something like that happen was infuriating.  We are always trying to help people in need, and the last thing we ever thought would happen was to have our things stolen.  No, the insurance won’t replace them because according to them, we didn’t lose enough.  Nice.  The next day after the robbery, Ricky had ankle surgery.  All is well, but goodness!  We were feeling pretty drained.  We were so excited to make it to this spring break.

Humor

Throughout the craziness of life, it’s important to look for the humor in what MIGHT be funny later.  I’ll end with this story.  Once the flight home was canceled on my birthday, American Airlines finally found a hotel for each stranded person.  I was the last person to get a room.  I then realized that I had nothing.  No toiletries.  No brush.  No eyeliner.  No clothes to sleep in. I was dressed in my little birthday dress, tights, and boots.   What I did have was the shirt that Jillian had given me earlier in the day.  So, how did I go to bed on my birthday?  Well, I was dressed in a super teacher shirt and tights.  My dinner?  An apple and a sorry bag of Fritos from earlier in the day.  There I was stranded dressed as super teacher with my apple in hand.  All I was missing was my cape.  It was slightly amusing, but I wanted to go home.  You know what though?  We all need a super teacher shirt, a crown, and a cape.  They do have magical powers.  🙂

What super teachers eat for dinner

What super teachers eat for dinner

My Super Teacher shirt

My Super Teacher shirt

I’ll let you know how the White House ceremony goes.  My blog isn’t read as much anymore, but thanks to YOU for keeping up with me.  Stay orange!

Super teacher…OUT!

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Our Gifts and the Resolution to Use Them

To capture the good things

To capture the good things

December/ Meet and Greet at Region 8

December/ Meet and Greet at Region 8

Family wants to carry us.

Family wants to carry us.

Gifts: IPads, cellphones, clothes, toys, video games…and the list goes on. These are great gifts that I’m sure found their way onto many shopping lists in the recent holiday season. I didn’t shop much, however, and I’ve never participated in Black Friday (really Black Thursday this time). Mostly, I was a spectator watching the blowout sale commercials, watching and reading about people rushing out on Black Friday and throughout December just to load their cars with expensive items for Christmas. Gifts. The English teacher in me never can leave words alone without peeking behind them for other meanings, double meanings, hidden meanings. The word I was studying? Gift. 2013 brought so many gifts and opportunities that I’ve written about before. Yes, I’m still pinching myself, and I think daily about the responsiblity I have to inform others about the extraordinary things that educators are doing. 2013 ended with me having the opportunity to meet, greet, and share my vision with the superintendents of Region 8. It ended with me having a clearer idea of what my goals should be in the next year. 2013 ended and then ushered in 2014, a gift.

What occurred to me in my reflection on gifts is that the best ones are those that are within us. We all have those talents that spring from somewhere inside us just waiting to be cultivated. The gift of song, the gift to draw or paint, the gift to take one look at a student and know something is off. The gift of counsel, the gift to open someone else’s eyes to their own gifts, the gift to handle ten tasks at once and make it all look easy. Those are the real gifts that we possess. They don’t only benefit us; they benefit those around us.  So, the worst thing that we can do is sit on our gifts, to not use them, to allow them to lie dormant and not be beneficial to anyone.

Here’s my confession for the new year.  In 2009, when I delivered the keynote address at the AVID convention, I felt great afterwards, exhilarated even, as if I was doing something I was meant to do. People said things such as, “Teachers can relate to you.” “You should be speaking to teachers on a much bigger stage.” “You inspire me to want to do better.” Something had stirred in me, and I realize now that it was the gift of a voice that people would listen to. It was the gift to share ideas that could move large groups of teachers. But I was a little scared to put that gift to use right then. I didn’t look for ways to share it. So what did I do? I sat on it. I went back to my classroom to exercise other gifts. While that certainly isn’t a negative, who knows what I could have accomplished had I continued to cultivate my voice. I sat on it, but I slowly started to tap it again, and that is why I am here, I think.

Do you have any gifts that you are sitting on? If you don’t, GO YOU!  If you do, resolve to tap into them in 2014. And while we are resolving to use our gifts, let’s resolve to do some other things as well.

-Resolve to use your teacher voice to improve the profession. This includes voting. If we don’t, we shouldn’t complain.
-Resolve to take better care of yourself. Our job is demanding, and it’s easy to put self on the shelf when you’re serving all day.
-Allow family and friends to help you when they try to. (This one is difficult for me. See my photo of my family carrying me.) 🙂
-Resolve to make someone’s day everyday. Your smile in the hallway or in the classroom may be just what someone needs to get the day back on track.
-Resolve to write down something good about each day.  Look for success in what doesn’t feel like success. Did Johnny finally come to school a week straight? Success! Quickly jot that down in a dedicated book, and you’ll have a tangible reminder of all the good that happens in our job.

2013 brought amazing experiences and new friends who inspire me to be a better teacher and speaker. I am so excited about what I have been told is about to be one of the best years of my career. This month, I am off to Austin again and Scottsdale, Arizona. Yay! I can’t wait to meet the other state teachers of the year. I will share it all with you.

May your 2014 be filled with innovative ideas, positive friends and supporters, and the realization that you are powerful and needed. Ultimately, may you use your gifts for your sake and for the sake of others. May others see YOU as the GIFT that you are.

Happy 2014 teachers and supporters of education!
(This post was for me as well. I work each day to be a better person and teacher.)

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“Nope. You don’t get a sash, a tiara, and a title and then get to put them on the shelf. There’s dust up there.” That was my answer to one of my sweet former students who always finds a way to come and visit me on my conference period as she is dashing off to her next class. What she normally finds is that I’m doing several things at once—typing an email, being interviewed by a student who has some project, while stopping every other question to answer a student who dropped by to ask me a question about his thesis, while sneaking bites of a donut or cereal bar. (My stomach scares the kids in third period if I don’t.)

“Winning teacher of the year didn’t give you a break of any kind?” That was the question she’d asked. On the contrary, it is another job. Another job that will and has already made me push my multitasking skills to the limit. But, I don’t believe in dusty titles. That’s what I told them in Austin. Good teachers never get to do one task at a time anyway. We are the kings and queens of multitasking. What I’ve learned since my last blog post is that THIS is multitasking gone wild! Speaking of the first post…WOW! I expected maybe 100 people to read what I had to say. So far it has been read over 11 times that. Thank you!

After that post, some of you asked if I would explain in the next post what the process is to get here. Here it is: First, you are named teacher of the year for your campus. You write eight essays that focus on a variety of things—philosophy, practices, service, message. The district selects a district teacher of the year from those. You move to the regional level, (same essays) and you must win there against 47 districts. For winning regional, you advance to state. The state has 40 applications from the 20 regions in Texas. The state whittles that down to six finalists—three elementary and three secondary. The six go to Austin to interview with a panel of education officials across the state. Fourteen questions in forty-five minutes. You wait a month. (You get stressed and doubt your answers.) Then, the state chooses an elementary state teacher of the year and a secondary state teacher of the year. One is chosen to be Texas teacher of the year and moves on to the national level. You get some prizes. You get a technology package for your classroom. And did I mention that you go a little crazy? Life gets crazy in good ways after that. (side note—The English teacher in me hates the second person “you,” but I’m trying to make it personal. YOU can do this too!)

What I’ve been doing is preparing. I’m studying and reading about the many facets of public education in the state. And while there is good crazy, there is also bad crazy. (Remember I said I’d be honest?) The pressure is enormous. I work for, speak for, and fight the good fight for 330,000, many of whom will never know me. I have to hang up my words and thoughts like clothes on a rack and pick the right ones that suit that occasion and that purpose. I have to be sure my students are number one. I want to take you with me and maintain transparency throughout the process. I have to deal with the fatigue. I bought some vitamins though, and I’m learning to say NO even to family. I am grateful for it all. Let’s see, media training in Coppell, TX was earlier this month. I’m grateful for the opportunity to equip myself with the tools I’ll need in 2014. I am on the cover of Advocate Magazine’s winter edition. I have written an article for Insight Magazine. Well, it’s not on paper yet, but it’s all in the brain. Amy Frierson and I were honored by Region 8 at the fall banquet. I will speak to the forty-seven superintendents from Region 8 in early December. I need to figure out what to say. I have also teamed up with Jeremy Wagner 2013 Texas Teacher of the Year and Jillian Howard 2014 Texas Elementary Teacher of the Year to start improving the Texas Teacher of the Year Program and education in general. They are both great. I will share some of our ideas as they come to life. We will have a conference call with Commissioner Michael Williams in December. We’re thankful that he carved out time for us. Jeremy worked his magic to set that up. I also have some great things on the horizon for January. Stay tuned, please.

As we rush towards Thanksgiving break, I have much to confess and much to be thankful for. I woke up this morning with sore shoulders and reached for the heating pad. (Somebody will be thirty-nine soon.) Symbolically, I thought about all that I carry on these skinny shoulders. (even before this honor) I have a habit of trying to take care of everything myself. No one should help me carry my load. No, I am fine. I don’t need anybody to do that. And then…Jillian called me on it. “Monica Washington! You have to learn to let people bless you. When you don’t allow people to bless you, you do know that’s rooted in pride, right?” Busted! I’m thankful for the talents God has bestowed upon me, and my mission is to bless others in deeds, words, and smiles. Yet, I often reject blessings in return, or I look for a way to give a payback blessing. Sometimes I need to be thankful, shut up, and take the blessings. Thanks, Jill! I am so thankful for my new friends.

I’m thankful for the friends and family and all of you who see my crazy scrambles behind the curtain of life, and then you watch me walk out there and you whisper to the people around you, “She is so together,” although you just witnessed my mad scramble.

I’m thankful for my STEM principal Cathy Klopper who checks on me often to see what I need. I usually say, “I’m good.” However, yesterday in my attempt to accept blessings, I asked for a favor, and she obliged. I’m thankful for my Texarkana College department chair, Mary Young, who didn’t kick me to the curb due to my crazy schedule. I’m thankful for my THS English friends who send me energy bars, make me laugh, and offer to do things for me and with me. I’m thankful for Ricky for putting up with me. I’ve put a lot on his shoulders, but he continues to ask for more.

So in a nutshell, here is what I’ve learned since last month—be prepared, but don’t kill yourself in the process. Be a blessing, but don’t get so wrapped up in pride that you can’t accept any in return. Yes, I’m still behind. My to do list haunts me, but one day, I’ll feel on top of things. Until then, it’s ok. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Be a blessing to others in some way, but open your arms to receive those blessings that have your name carved all over them.

I’ll meet you here next month. Until then, stay orange, or blue (Region 8), or red, white, and blue. Those are the only colors to be.

20131116-100709.jpg. After media training with Jill and our trainers.

Keeping Dust off of the Title and Giving Thanks

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The adventure begins…

The adoption is complete. It’s a girl! She doesn’t weigh that much, but she has learned that power doesn’t come through physical stature. It comes through heart, through grit, through smiles, through sacrifice. In the past several months, I’ve had to take pause, put my hand on my little bit of hip, and ask, “How did I get here?”

Adopted—by Texarkana, TX, by Texarkana Independent School District, by Texas High School, by friends who would stand by me through the crazy days of life, who would cheer the loudest and the longest in my times of triumph. Adopted—and loving it.

Here I am. Welcome to Orange All Over. This is my blog to share things with you, to take you with me on my journey in 2014 as Texas Teacher of the Year.

Before we travel, I have to first let you in on some truths that many of you may not know. I didn’t want to be adopted. I was fine—FINE, I tell you, right where I was. I was home. In Memphis. My students loved me, and well, I was home. But we came anyway. It was hard initially. The students thought I was crazy. “Who is this woman trying to make us write so much in our AVID class? Ship her back to Tennessee!” There was a death in the family—on my birthday. Our two yellow labs who were well trained and beautiful, who we used to hook to my husband Ricky’s wheelchair to pull him (at a high rate of speed, mind you) through our neighborhood while I biked furiously beside them, were struck by the same car at the same time and died. There was Ricky’s major surgery. A totaled car. A house I didn’t like. I just didn’t belong here. But we stayed. I needed Ricky to give me weekly pep talks at first.

“Give it time. We aren’t quitters. The students will come around. You’ll love it here. Just wait.”

And then, after a span of adjustment, of just staying true to myself so people would gradually get to know me, of working so hard that students and parents would see that my motives were pure, that I was a trusted partner in this thing called education, after I had so much wacky fun with my students that they laughed at me, and I laughed at myself, and they grew and learned, and I learned and grew, I heard this:

“And the secondary teacher of the year and the teacher who will represent Texas in the national competition—Monica Washington.”

And as I stood on the stage and gave whatever speech that was—(well, it was from the heart because Mark Schroeder told me to just speak from the heart, so I gave it a shot. I crumbled up the speech and talked about how we were all worthy of that honor. I pointed out my bird legs and spoke of red dresses and asked the audience to chant with me)—yes, when I was giving that speech, my phone was on the table buzzing. It was a group students who already knew that I won—that fast! Ten minutes later, I had 150 new emails from my adopted family—community, district, parents, school. You said you loved me. You were proud of me. You said you were glad that I was yours. So, I answered each of you over the next week.

I can’t even begin to explain how great it has been. I came back to a purple welcome thanks to my English teacher friends, Brittny, Michele, and Ryan. (Purple is my favorite color.) They decked my room out! We had Monica Washington, purple out, day. Administration and students and even some teachers from other campuses participated. It was a sea of purple. I got flowers and fruit. I got to do a radio show. Thanks, Derrick McGary. I was recognized by local papers and media. I was honored by Mayor Bob Bruggeman. I got to be an honorary captain at the Texas High football game. I interviewed with a representative from TSTA (Texas State Teachers Association)/NEA so that they can feature me in the journal. I was fitted for my very own 2014 Texas Teacher of the Year class ring. I couldn’t afford a class ring in high school; this one will be special. Thanks, Mr. Norton! I got a t-shirt that highlights my core teaching philosophy right on the front of it. Thanks, Stephanie. I got so much love from my students.

And so, yes, I am yours, and I am taking you with me. Everywhere I go, I will be tying an orange ribbon in your honor. The White House, Space Camp, everywhere. Hence, the title of this blog. I am Orange All Over, and I am taking Orange (YOU) all over. I will never say that I am better than anyone, only that someone thought I was fit to be a representative of all that is great about you. I plan to represent you well and show you what I am doing. It will be fun. It will be tiring. You can count on my honesty. Let me practice it now. Ok, so I broke my glass trophy before I even left the building that day in Austin! I can be clumsy. However, TASA was nice enough to order me a new one. It arrived yesterday. J

This first blog post is to say thank you and to ask you to travel with me. It is to remind you that when we push ourselves past our comfort zones, we can redefine our personal greatness. And now, I close to go grade some essays. I could go on. You know how those English teachers can be.

Thank you for adopting me. Stay ORANGE! It’s the only color to be.

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