Elevating Great Teaching

Everyone loves a great teacher. This is an indisputable maxim of our culture. Each school year, we seek them out for our children and shower them with ceramic apples, gift cards, and more mugs than they can count. 

Very rarely, though, do we as a culture invest in what teachers do to become great at what they do, how they continually improve their practice, or what makes them feel supported and celebrated. Most would rather just assume teachers have all the answers and everything they need – especially those who are recognized as great teachers – and leave it at that.

This is why I was so honored to be part of last week’s Teacher of the Year Roundtable honoring the 74 winners of the Florida District Teacher of the Year program. The winners had the opportunity to participate in multiple days of professional learning and fellowship with former winners and with their peers from across the state. This year’s theme “Elevate” lived up to its name, culminating with the naming of the 2020 Florida Teacher of the Year, Hillsborough County educator Dr. Dakeyan Chá Dré Graham.

The sheer energy, commitment, talent, and passion embodied in these 160-plus Teachers of the Year, present and past, coursed through the room like a current elevating us all. The warmth with which the honored teachers greeted and celebrated each other, lifted each other up, and pushed each other to believe in themselves and in their individual and collective potential – that was truly one of the most powerful experiences I’ve witnessed professionally.

Yet what struck me the most was how hungry these great teachers were for more – from themselves, from their peers, and for the profession itself. The educators in this group were not content with the titles they had earned, however awesome, humbling, and incredible. Instead, through their dedication, they will spend the next year of their lives, through the Lead Network and in their own districts, utilizing their Teacher of the Year platform to help enhance their peers, their profession, and ultimately every student they can reach. In short, this group brought the desire to elevate teaching to a whole new level.

At last week’s gathering, I was privileged to share with these educators a new reflection tool we created, which captures their comments about their work and their profession. This tool can help every educator on their journey over the next academic year, to never forget that we are better together when we are learning together, when we #CommitToImpact,  and when we believe we have yet to arrive at our best work.

Being with the Teachers of the Year was a powerful reminder that we can always elevate our efforts – especially those to recognize and support great teachers for all the hard work they do to hone their practice and support each other’s professional learning. So congratulations to the #74Strong district and statewide Teachers of the Year. Please know we are here to support you and celebrate you, and are eager to learn from you how best we can all do that. No ceramic mugs necessary!

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