Although I found this out a few weeks ago, today the official email went out announcing that I am a finalist for Illinois Presidential Award of Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching!
I wanted to record a little bit about the application process, both for myself and for anyone that is thinking about applying for the award.
The process started by being nominated by a math coach, Sendhil Revuluri. I have to admit that when he nominated me, I was flattered, but I really wasn't thinking that I would apply. I had just returned to work from maternity leave and couldn't imagine putting in the work required for the application! After a conversation in the late winter with Sendhil, when he inquired about my application status (um, not even started!), I got to thinking that maybe I could try to put something together.
Well, the application process had quite a few pieces. I had to get three letters of recommendation, so I asked my principal, Jim Calabrese, another principal in my district and my mentor for NBCT, Sue Butler, and finally my math coach, Margie Pligge. All three people were gracious enough to take the time to write very nice letters.
Next, I had to start thinking about a lesson to be taped and find someone willing to tape it! I reached out to an iCoach (instructional coach) in my district, Jordan Garrett, who was thankfully willing to help me. She came into my classroom four different periods, over a few weeks, to capture the action leaving her arm numb from holding the camera each time! I did two different lessons, but ended up choosing the video from doing one of my favorite Formative Assessment Lessons.
[[Also, if you have never video taped yourself teaching and watched it, I recommend it. You learn so much! You get to see things from another perspective, see what kids are doing, and notice your own mannerisms (I talk with my hands, a lot!).]]
Me, talking with my hands (as usual) during lesson
The video had to be in a weird format. I was having trouble getting my computer to let me convert the file using a downloaded program. Luckily, my husband was willing to help and do it on his personal laptop. The process took a few hours, but finally, the video was compressed and ready to be uploaded to the PAEMST site.
I set to work on the written reflection, which I had plans of having a first draft done with plenty of time for getting feedback and revisions. Well, life happened, and of course I didn't get my first draft done until a few days before it was due. My friend, Sendhil, knows a past PAEMST awardee named PJ Karafiol. I actually briefly met PJ at the ICTM conference, last October, when we both accepted teaching awards. Well, I reached out (looked up email address online!) to PJ and asked him for any feedback he was willing to give. I realized I only gave him days, but he was so kind to give some really helpful suggestions. So helpful, in fact, that I decided to take a personal day from school to work on the revisions!
Finally, all the pieces were completed and submitted. I am honored to be a finalist. One of the best things about teaching awards is bringing to light work I'm doing with students that I care so much about. All students deserve a high quality and equitable math education, no matter what their background, family income, or situation. I also see my work as bringing the positive work teachers do to attention and helping to change the negative impression that some might have towards public education. It is truly important work.