This week I went to a tea to honor those of us who won the teacher of the year awards at our schools. There were 34 of us from my district. Each teacher came to the front of the room in order to be recognized, and while awkward to stand in front of my colleagues, it was one of the most humbling experiences of my life.
As my principal told the attributes that got me to that point along with a list of the courses I have taught at my school, I looked around the room. And because the podium was in the middle of the audience, I could see everyone. There were teachers there who represented every part of my career other than the earliest while I was in the Peace Corps and while I lived in Arizona. Each of the people in that audience, I feel, were every bit as worthy of the award as I, if not more so. Each of them smiled at me as I stood there, some of them waved, and one even put her hands to her heart as if to tell me she appreciated me.
In education there are few times we get shown deep appreciation for what we do. Yes, we see our students grow. Yes, we sometimes hear a thank you from a parent, but it is rare to feel such deep understanding and appreciation for what we do in that room filled with 30-ish teens on a daily basis.
And then to hear what other principals said about the teachers they nominated created a whole new level of humble pie for me to take in and ingest. To be considered in the same class as some of the teachers acknowledged at this ceremony was astounding, and I am not certain yet whether I really am deserving of such a distinction.
I know I love what I do. I know I try my hardest every day to reach every kid who walks through the threshold of my four (yes, four) classrooms. Beyond that, I am not sure how I stack up.