Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Poetry In Motion

The 2015 Indiana Teacher of the Year banquet was held on Friday evening, November 7.  In attendance were all the semifinalists and finalists, along with their colleagues, families, and friends.  A banquet hall was filled at north Indianapolis hotel, slides played throughout the evening highlighting the achievements of fine Hoosier educators, and the meal was top notch.

What made the evening special, of course, were the teachers, educational leaders like Tina Ahlgren and Matt Ehresman, top-2 finalists in the INTOY competition.

Tina Ahlren and her husband

Matt Ehresman and his wife
Conversations with teacher-leaders abounded, led often by INTOYs from other years.  As teacher after teacher was recognized, a growing wave of admiration for the dedicated men and women who daily lead our children filled the room.

And then it was time to hear from our 2015 INTOY, Kathy Nimmer.  As one who often gives public addresses, I could not help analyzing her style just a bit.  After all, when hundreds of people were riveted on her every word and many were dabbing their eyes, she had to be doing something right, and I am always eager to learn.

Kathy's delivery is one of poetry in motion.  It is not the thunderous poetry of Homer, but the gentle, bucolic poetry of Vergil in his early works.  She does not gesticulate wildly.  She does blast away with a stentorian voice.  She stands in a way that is stately as her hands brush a Braille text she clearly knows by heart.  Her voice is quiet.  It is her message that draws you in, and what a message it is.  Kathy's message, the one she shared Friday night and the one that is the centerpiece of her broader message, is one of overcoming, yet it is not just the overcoming of obstacles by one who is blind.  It is the overcoming of challenges that all teachers face, and in this she inspires and gives hope to us all.

When the tears had been dried and the applause at last had died down, the evening of honors continued.  As with all the semifinalists and finalists, whose pictures can be found here, Kathy was presented a handsome glass apple, and a monogrammed leather portfolio.  She also received a monogrammed briefcase, a gold INTOY pin, a gold INTOY ring, a membership in Kappa Delta Pi, and a check to support her in her many responsibilities across the nation.  American Fidelity, CSO Architects, Kroger, Kappa Delta Pi, and Herff Jones continued their strong support of Hoosier teachers by providing these items.
Rep. Klinker reading the House resolution

Rep. Truitt reading the letter from Gov. Pence
Representative Sheila Klinker and Representative Randy Truitt then presented her with a resolution from the House of Representatives and a letter from Governor Mike Pence.  It was clear that such accolades were moving Kathy deeply, but then came the moment when, in the words of my late father-in-law, she was "plum got."  Representatives Truitt and Klinker presented her with the Sagamore of the Wabash, our state's highest honor.

Those of us fortunate enough to celebrate the extraordinary teacher-leaders at the 2015 Indiana Teacher of the Year banquet know that Indiana is not just the crossroads of America, but the intersection of creative ideas, innovative methodology, and the most caring and professional educators.  We are fortunate to have so many worthy of recognition and to send a person like Kathy Nimmer to the 2015 National Teacher of the Year competition.  Only one question remains.  What will her dog, Elias, wear when he joins her at the White House to meet the President?

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