Tuesday, July 01, 2014

A New Beginning...

Twelve years ago, I was hired to teach fourth grade at an elementary school in the northern suburbs outside of Chicago with barely any teaching experience whatsoever. The principal at the time told me that he saw something in me that would make a great teacher. It was a ridiculously rocky first year. I was young, idealistic and an outside-the-box thinker. As the year went on, I made lots of mistakes, but I learned many lessons about how to hone my teaching skills, communicate effectively, and build relationships with those around me.

After five years in the elementary classroom, I found myself craving a leadership role and wound up as a technology coordinator in my building. When I applied for the position, I imagined this role to be a dream job for me. My passion for technology and instruction would blend into a perfect role, one where I could help teachers integrate technology into their teaching and still have interactions with students. Unfortunately, the structure of the position and the culture of the district were not quite ready for my vision for what I believed the job could be. Instead of coaching teachers and sharing how technology could be used as a tool to elevate student learning and engagement, I was called upon to fix interactive whiteboards and teach cyber safety classes that were completely scripted. While I loved my school as well as the many relationships I had cultivated throughout my years in the building, I was completely deflated each night when I would come home from school and reflect on how my education and classroom teaching experience felt wasted. After giving it four years and considering a career change, I decided to do the unthinkable in the eyes of my colleagues...return to the classroom.

Thanks to a few administrators who recognized my passion for teaching and desire for change, I was granted a job transfer over to the neighboring middle school to teach 6th grade ELA. Even though I had nine years of experience in the same school district, I felt like a brand new teacher. I had to learn about the middle school model, common core standards, MAP testing and standards-based grading. Overwhelmed does not begin to describe my emotional state, so as soon as I stepped foot back into the classroom, I called upon my building's literacy coach as well as my building administrators to help me learn as much as possible. I was constantly challenging myself to learn, grow, and redefine the classroom experience for my students. My goal was to make learning meaningful for my students, and I made it my mission to serve as a model classroom where technology was a vehicle to assist in student engagement and academic growth. By my second year back in the classroom, I participated in a 1:1 Chromebook pilot, took on the role of team leader, and did whatever I could to become better at my craft. My two years as a middle school teacher have been the best years of my teaching career, and I am grateful every day that I took the risk of leaving my comfortable position at a school that I desperately loved for a position that would uproot me, challenge me beyond my wildest expectations, and work me to the bone. 

Yet just two years into teaching 6th grade ELA, after I had fallen in love with my new school and built wonderful relationships with my new colleagues, an opportunity came knocking. This time it was an administrative role, and my heart told me I was ready to take on this new challenge. Today, after serving my district for eleven incredible years as a teacher, I began my first day as a district administrator, charged with the responsibility of leading teachers toward innovative teaching practices in 1:1 learning environments. My experience as an elementary and middle school teacher along with my background as a technology coordinator will provide an invaluable perspective as I take on this new role, and I am eager to share my passion with such incredible teachers and leaders in my district as we embark on this exciting journey together.

If you have been following my blog (all three of you), I hope you will visit me over at directorforinnovativelearning.edublogs.org. Thanks for stopping by.


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