"I'm gonna work their butts off today!" I declared to my husband before loading my school bag into the car on an ordinary Friday morning. There were so many unfinished tasks lingering from the week, and I had bold ambitions to conquer them all. My sneaky husband giggled, and replied, "Really? So, you're going to be a slave driver, huh?" I smiled and insisted these kids could do hard things.
The announcements began promptly at 7:50 a.m., and when my administrators, Mrs. McClarty and Mrs. Brownell, appeared on the screen, I figured I should tune in and pay attention. I leaned against the edge of the couch as they explained to the students today was a very special day. With a bouquet of yellow flowers in hand, my administrators proceeded to inform the students about the Teacher of the Year award and how this accolade was particularly special because an educator's peers chose the winner.
As soon as the drum-roll ended, and my name, Mrs. Shade, was announced, I stood in shock and disbelief. My husband entered my classroom with a vase full of roses, and he hugged me tight reminding me I matter. He counted fourteen roses, one for each year I'd taught, and his smile was full of pride and adoration. Emily and Robin joined my precious kiddos for a class photo, and I felt privileged to have the greatest job on earth.
Once the hubbub settled, I refocused and we got back to work. We had mid-year reading goals to set, an A.O.W. summary to write, and a short poetry quiz to complete. It was time to crack the whip, a memorable idiom we'd learned during the week. The students and I spent the day engaged in rigorous school work, and by the end of the afternoon we were all pretty much spent.
Right before I packed up my things to head out the door, two of my precious girls rushed into my classroom, panting and short of breath. They'd hurried down to the library to make me a giant congratulations card, and they were eager to share their masterpiece.
This small act of kindness was better than any title, and I realized that being Teacher of the Year is really about loving kids and building relationships. It's about setting high expectations and helping kids embrace struggle. I love my work, and I am deeply grateful to be back in the classroom with a group of students who constantly remind me why I became a teacher. I am humbled, honored, and happy.