We were invited to visit the Senate Chambers and were recognized with Senate Resolution No. 1705 and met with some personalized commendations from the Senator from our respective district in the state of Kansas.
Prior to that, we were invited to give some brief remarks at the joint committee meeting of the Senate's and House's Education Committee. My remarks are included below in italics.
All through my childhood, though, NASCAR had little to do with my life.
But that first week of student-teaching, it became obvious that I would not survive class on Monday morning without knowing who won the race on Sunday afternoon.
That’s also when I discovered it would be necessary to make math relate to my students, that relying heavily on dry lessons from a textbook would not suit my constituents, especially in the class I taught with a female student who insisted on being called Bubba.
I designed lessons to incorporate racing terminology, strategies, techniques and puns to please the audience. The students loved it and didn’t even realize they were doing math, thinking they were only talkin’ ‘bout racin’, roughly a decade before the Common Core came about.
My second year of teaching in Eudora, I had a student who was gone numerous times because of his racing talents. This year, he will actually be driving in the Indianapolis 500 for A.J. Foyt Racing in the number 41 car. His name is Chase Austin and I hope you take note of his efforts. The bond that he and I formed still persists, as he comes to visit my classroom whenever he is back in town.
I tell Chase how I am teaching a particular topic and he refers back to the way I taught when he was a student, asking why I changed the way I teach it. As Chase can attest, not every race can be driven the same way. The same thing goes in education, as a teacher strives to tailor-make a lesson to the students from one year to the next. A lot has changed in education since No Child Left Behind was instituted when Chase was a middle school student.
He also points out the new technology I have in the classroom since the days he was there. The graphing calculators he used in my classroom (at which time, I pull out an old TI-86 from my pocket) were traded away for an upgrade (at which time, I pull out a TI-84 Plus from my pocket) but at no out-of-pocket cost to our school district. Now those have been upgraded to yet another version (at which time, I pull out a TI-Nspire CX CAS from my pocket, greeted with chuckles from the legislators) still at no direct cost to our district. The SMART Board on the wall of my classroom has a similar story (I'll elaborate on that story another time), making my classroom look like a collection of tech-y garage sale finds. There are numerous opportunities available through the use of technology in the classroom, and we must secure access to these tools to see that our students are Career and College Ready and able to utilize their specific skill set towards a successful future.
So, with continued support for bills like the Career and Technical Education Law and helping schools utilize technology tools to create a Twenty-First Century Classroom, we can ensure that Kansas students will remain in the race instead of stuck at a pit stop, watching others pass them by. Kansas kids and Kansas teachers deserve that opportunity to provide for the future successes of our state.
A successful race isn’t won solely by the driver. There are a lot of people that helped get to a winning position. The fact of the matter is, we’re all in this race together.
If I'm going to do any name-dropping, though, I feel obligated to acknowledge the warm welcome I received from Senator Tom Holland from my home district.
I'm not sure that even he could have helped me out in getting through Capitol Security entering the building, though. I set off the metal detector twice, then "got the wand." One of my fellow Teacher of the Year Team members snapped the photo at left. In the end, I made it in the building and our Team was even invited into Governor Sam Brownback's office for a conversation with him on what it is like to be governor, how often he speaks with President Obama, and he reciprocated by seeking out our opinions on a number of issues he is currently faced with at the state level.
I am looking forward to the other opportunities that are up and coming for the Kansas Teacher of the Year Team (check out our schedule of appearances HERE), but realizing all too quickly just how big our state is. I'm looking to check out some sort of "Learn Spanish" on CD--or "Sooo, You Wanna Learn To Speak Canadian, Eh?"--so I have something to listen to along all the miles we log through this entire experience. Any help out there--I mean, OOOT there?
One last note: I referenced auto racing several times throughout this post and how it relates to my students, namely Chase Austin because I taught him. Did you also realize that NASCAR driver Clint Bowyer is from Emporia, Kansas? It was to hear several funny stories about Clint from his former teachers when we toured the Emporia School District this past Wednesday, Jan. 23rd.