Monday, April 28, 2014

Living History

The first full day for the 2014 State Teachers of the Year saw us at the Smithsonian Institution. We had chosen which museums we wanted to visit and were put into appropriate groups when we arrived at The Castle. I was in a group with (L to R) Kathy Assini (New Jersey), Joey Lee (New Hampshire), Pat Page (Rhode Island), Jane Schmidt (Iowa), and Jeff Baxter (Kansas) to tour the National Portrait Gallery.

Our guide was Briana Zavadil White, and to be honest, her leadership was every bit as impressive as the items we saw.  We talked endlessly about the varied strategies she used in each of the exhibits where we stopped to draw us into the experience and to help us see and process what we never would have without such an excellent guide.  Along the way we saw portraits of many famous people, including:

(Maya Angelou and L.L. Cool J)

(Landsdowne Washington and Lincoln life masks)

(President Kennedy and President Reagan)

(President Clinton and President Bush)

(George Washington Carver and Thurgood Marshall)

At the conclusion, we met up with one of the other groups touring the gallery for a group picture.  In it are Joey Lee (New Hampshire), Karyn Dickerson (North Carolina), Gary Abud (Michigan), Jane Schmidt (Iowa), Kathy Assini (New Jersey), Anne Marie Osheyack (Massachusetts), Pat Page (Rhode Island), Lee Wainwright (Delaware), Anna Baldwin (Montana), Jeff Baxter (Kansas), Darleen Sutton (South Carolina), and Steve Perkins (Indiana).

A trip back to the Smithsonian Castle took us to lunch and scintillating conversation as we shared with each other our experiences from the various museums.  Each table picked a representative to share with the entire group the major takeaways, and I was happy to speak for our table, which had produced brilliant ideas for taking our experiences back to the classroom.

From there it was a ride to the home of Vice President Joe Biden.  We knew we were someplace important when Secret Service agents boarded our bus to check our photo ID against a list of guests.  From there it was hors d'oeuvres in a historic setting with a string quartet from the United States Army Band playing music.

(Approved by Secret Service and then stepping into history)

(With John Mastroianni-Connecticut and Paul Miura-Northern Mariana Islands; with Deb Widmer-Ohio)

 Finally it was time to meet Dr. Jill Biden, an English teacher with a true heart for students and educators.

 I will conclude with what was a shot of me clowning around before Dr. Biden came out to speak to us. I tweeted this one with the caption that I was speaking on education policy and included the line "I wish!"  The simple fact is that anyone can make a difference.  Our experiences at the Smithsonian reminded us of the extraordinary accomplishments of ordinary people.  Dr. Biden, a woman of renown and authority, revealed a genuine, caring heart that was utterly down to earth.  The picture of me at the podium may tell the story of a guy cutting up, or it could depict a teacher from a small Indiana town who has been blessed to represent the thousands of fantastic teachers across the Hoosier state.  You be the judge.

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