When one door closes...
This has been a hard week. Let me explain the backstory. I taught at my previous school for 12 years, building the physics program from the ground up. When I was awarded the Einstein Fellowship, the district denied my request for a one-year leave of absence. It hurt, and I wasn't sure I would want to go back. Because of my love for my colleagues, I applied for an opening. I got a call this week to tell me that I wouldn't even be considered for that position. That door was slammed in my face and it hurt- it still hurts.
Someone very wise told me this, "It's not what you left, it's what you made. It also provided you a place for you to grow." He's absolutely right. Here's what I made and how I grew.
When I started, I was the district's ONLY physics teacher (and only half-time), with 50 students (out of a school of 1600) 81% of them white males. The attitude was that physics is hard and only the best and brightest can succeed. To me, physics is something everyone can relate to, so I think physics/AP Physics should be accessible to all students. Luckily, I had landed in the best science department imaginable, a group of incredible people who always had the best interests of students in mind. They agreed with my philosophy and we worked as a team to improve the science experience for our students. We made each other and our school better. We successfully switched science sequencing to allow more students access to upper level science classes and fewer students failed.
For students engagement, I moved most of my regular physics curriculum to a project-based approach, introducing projects like the Cardboard Boat Regatta, building musical instruments out of recycled materials, electric boats to race in a rain gutter and rubber band cars to race down a hallway. I created a safe space for students to fail and learn from their mistakes. I created a culture where student knew that I was always there to support them, and it worked.
At the end of my time there, we had females making up 60% of the physics/AP Physics students and the diversity of the school could be seen in the physics classes. My vision was realized.
I grew professionally at the state and national levels. Here are a few examples:
Selected to ND State Science Standards Committee
Selected to represent K-12 teachers on the K-12 Education Coordination Council
Named Co-chair of the AP Physics C Test Development Committee
National Board Certification- Adolescent Science 7-12
Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching
Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship
Maya Angelou said, "If you are going to live, leave a legacy. Make a mark on the world that can't be erased." I feel I have done that. My dear friend, Annette is continuing the legacy I started. That means what I did was good and it left a mark. Here is a shot from a live stream of this year's Cardboard Boat Regatta.
I am not the same person or teacher I was when I started there. I am better because of many outstanding colleagues and some amazing administrators. But that door is now closed, for good. I now believe that another door will open. When it does, look out world, because I am ready to start a new adventure to leave another mark.