Archive | Kentucky Teacher of the Year

Momentum is growing for teacher leadership

Holly Bloodworth

Holly Bloodworth

Leadership can take many forms. It can be take charge or by example. It can be a position or an attitude. It can be a mission or by default.  Leadership is essential to any endeavor. It is critical for success. Leadership is vital for improvement and growth, and it is there for the taking. If there is a vacuum, something will fill it.

As teachers, we often allow those vacuums to fill with people that really do not know what it is like in the classroom. Our focus is the students that we teach, and we let other people make the decisions that impact our success or failure in our classrooms. As teachers we need to begin to see our potential as educational leaders, and fill those vacuums ourselves.

As teachers we should strive to be instructional leaders. Working with other like-minded professionals is one of the best ways to grow our teaching skills. Many opportunities are available to network with other teachers and learn from the information brought from different experiences.

The Kentucky Reading Project is one of the best learning experiences I have ever had. The Kentucky Reading Project is part of the Collaborative Center for Literacy Development and reaches teachers across the state through KRP sites at each regional university. Participants can earn three hours of credit, a stipend, and receive many new books and resources. This project brings together teachers, kindergarten through 5th grade, as a community of learners. For two weeks practitioners with various years of experiences come together to deepen their understanding of best practices in literacy. I have been involved for several years as a co-director, and look forward to learning with a new cadre each year. The project helps develop leadership skills through the creation of an action plan that allows teachers to go back to school and use the strategies and ideas gleaned from the course. Teachers can be the ripple that creates a wave of literacy transformation.

Teacher organizations are other venues for leadership opportunities. Collectively teachers can have a strong voice. It is with a strong voice we can be heard. We cannot take ownership of our profession unless we are willing to speak up. When we work together, we can impact decisions.  The Kentucky Education Association provides many ways for teachers to develop leadership skills. Planning is underway for the TALK Conference June 16 and 17.  The sessions are conducted by teachers, and for teachers. The conference will include great information on the new science standards, technology and proven ideas for the classroom. Teachers from all across the commonwealth will be sharing strategies and methods that they have used and found beneficial in the classroom. This conference is sponsored by several different organizations including KEA, the Kentucky Department of Education, the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, and the Fund for Transforming Education. This collaboration enables teachers to network and discover many opportunities to become connected with other teacher leaders.

Momentum is growing for teacher leadership. It is interesting to think about how the teaching profession might change to meet the ever increasing demands that are placed on us. Talk of hybrid roles, career continuums and change is in the air. Now more than ever teachers need to become part of the discussion.

Holly Bloodworth, a teacher at Murray Elementary School (Murray Independent), was named the 2014 Kentucky Teacher of the Year on Oct. 16, 2013. She will be sharing her educational experiences in and outside of the classroom with Kentucky Teacher readers during her year-long reign.

 

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Hello, My Name Is…

Holly Bloodworth

Holly Bloodworth

Teachers today have many names; we are probably called many names too, but what I am talking about are all the roles we have as teachers. Teaching is a huge job, and we are called to be many things for many people.

One of our names is Believer.  Just like the song says, “Don’t stop believin’”, and we don’t.  We believe in children, and their inner power to grow and change.  We look at mistakes as opportunities, and through a growth mind set, help secure children on the path to learning.  We are optimists; we are working with the future every day.  We believe in what we do.  We work tirelessly, and we are making progress in education.  The common core standards are a good step toward preparing children to be ready for the future.  We are closing gaps.  It is slow work. It is not as fast as we would like. It is challenging work, but we are making progress.  We believe in what we do, and believe in the children we teach.

Another name we like to be called is Professional.  It is a hard time to be a teacher.  New things are coming at us left and right.  Honestly it feels like trying to drink out of a fire hose, but we know that high standards and effective teachers are good things.  Teachers are more Continue Reading

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Ready or not

Holly Bloodworth, the 2014 Kentucky Teacher of the Year, discusses bats with her students as a part of a lesson involving informational texts at Murray Elementary School (Murray Independent). Photo by Amy Wallot, Oct. 28, 2013

Holly Bloodworth, the 2014 Kentucky Teacher of the Year, discusses bats with her students as a part of a lesson involving informational texts at Murray Elementary School (Murray Independent). Photo by Amy Wallot, Oct. 28, 2013

Being named the 2014 Kentucky Teacher of the Year is sure to be one of the most exciting professional times of my life. I am looking forward to meeting new people, learning new things, and sharing ideas with other educators across the commonwealth and our nation. I know this will be a journey of discovery for me as I grow and learn in this new role. I hope I will be able to give to others as much as I know I will gain myself.

As I stood in our state’s beautiful capitol rotunda and heard my name announced as the 2014 Kentucky Teacher of the Year, I thought, “Yikes!  I don’t know if I am ready for this!” Self-doubt swooped in like a vulture. “Am I good enough?”, “Do I really have anything to offer?” “There is so much I don’t know!” But as I looked out Continue Reading

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2013 Kentucky Teacher of the Year bids farewell after ‘defining, incredible year’

Kristal Doolin

Kristal Doolin

In my first article last year, I used the word “surreal” more than once to describe being named 2013 Kentucky Teacher of the Year. In the closing statements of that article I said, “I cannot wait to meet and learn from other dedicated educators here in Kentucky and across the nation. “Surreal” can hardly describe it.” Almost one year later, I find that final statement prophetic because I now know that “surreal” really doesn’t do this process justice. It is bigger than anything I could have imagined last October and has both helped me find my voice and altered my perspective.

In short, I feel like someone has replaced the windows in my classroom and their limited view with larger telescopic windows to the world. How does one achieve this? It’s not easy.  It is accomplished with a careful, purposeful combination of people, places and conversations.

Over the past year, I have traveled to many places thereby experiencing things I would never have been able to do on my own.  In addition to locations here in Kentucky, I’ve been to the Grand Canyon and Scottsdale, Arizona, Washington D.C., (including a visit with Second Continue Reading

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To “Think Anew…One Day at a Time”

Kristal Doolin

Kristal Doolin

In his second annual message to Congress in December 1862 Abraham Lincoln wrote, “The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise — with the occasion.  As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew.”  Although I do not equate any personal struggles with that of Lincoln’s during his years as president, when I read this quote recently, I thought of the parallels between Lincoln’s words of advice and education in our country today.

In my role as Kentucky Teacher of the Year this year, I’ve been acutely aware of the revolutionary transformation happening in our profession. With the introduction of the Common Core State Standards, new teacher preparation and evaluation systems and the ever-evolving role of technology in our work it is impossible to deny the shift.  Unfortunately, “the occasion is piled high with difficulty” and not everyone is on board.  Change is not always easy to accept but no one can refute that the collaboration going on at multiple levels is needed.  We must continue the work realizing that the world, our students, and their needs are changing.  “We must think anew.” Continue Reading

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Plug into learning

Kristal Doolin

Kristal Doolin

By the time this article is posted online, I will have already welcomed my new students, established rules and routines, and set them up in our digital classroom on Edmodo, the first of many technology tools we will use this year. As summer slips away and you make plans for meeting Kentucky Core Academic Standards and Program Review requirements for the new year, you are undoubtedly looking to technology as well.

What tech tools will you include from years past, and what’s new? What will inspire creativity, motivate your students and make your job easier?  In an effort to continue encouraging collaboration across the state, as I mentioned in my last article, I’d like to share a few of the “must have” tech tools in my classroom.

Edmodo

Edmodo is a free social media site currently connecting more than 20 million teachers and students globally in a safe environment where they can collaborate and share. The site allows teachers to setup classes, class discussion and assignments. It’s no secret Edmodo is at Continue Reading

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Inspiring One Another to Stick Our Necks Out

Kristal Doolin

Kristal Doolin

Recently, during a tribute video about education leader James B. Conant at the Education Commission of the States 2013 Conference in St. Louis, a quote by Mr. Conant flashed on the screen: “Behold the turtle. He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out.”  This quote not only applied to the educational policy and decision-making process at the heart of the conference, but the concept of taking risks resonated with me because as a teacher I “stick my neck out” daily in one way or another. How? I prepare lessons and present them to four classes of students a day and hope for success. Those students are not an easy audience.  In fact, they’re the first to let me know when a lesson is a flop.  What’s more, I regularly put myself and my opinions out there with parents and colleagues never knowing how my thoughts will be received.The wonderful thing about teaching, however, is that great teachers collaborate and that means we don’t have to stick our necks out alone. So, as we all prepare for those first days with our new students, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite ideas for the beginning of the year with the hope that readers will share their ideas also.

Getting to know my students

Knowing my students is one of the most important things to me at the beginning of the year. Over the years, I’ve used many methods to learn about my students, but really feel like I found the perfect match with my introduction letter assignment. On the first day of class, I distribute a letter from me to my students.  This letter not only introduces me as their new language arts teacher, but Continue Reading

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National Board Certification Impact and Rewards Continue a Decade Later

Kristal Doolin

Kristal Doolin

A few weeks ago I breathed a huge sigh of relief as I submitted my Profile of Professional Growth for National Board Certification renewal. There are many teachers out there, whether you are a first time candidate or certified teacher, seeking the required 10 year renewal, who understand the sense of satisfaction I felt.  Now I wait for that all-important email message this fall notifying me that I have either been recertified or denied recertification.

The last time I waited for that e-mail was in 2003.  I had taken on the challenge of National Board Certification because I wanted meaningful professional development that would specifically address my teaching in my classroom.  Moreover, Eleanor Roosevelt said, “It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself,” and I agree.  So, I wanted to be a model of the growth I expected from my students.

I still remember the elation I felt when I opened that e-mail. If you can imagine it – I was five months pregnant and checked my e-mail – like we all do – while on planning. When I opened the message there happened to be a guy from the technology department in my room working on student computers. I screamed and, of course, scared him to death. Without even explaining to him, I grabbed my phone and called my husband. I wanted him to know first.

After telling him though, I wasn’t satisfied and went down my hallway telling anyone I could find. Most had no clue what I was going on about because the National Board process wasn’t well known Continue Reading

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Beyond Appreciation

I recently returned from “Washington Recognition Week” in our nation’s capital and all I can say is that I wish every teacher across Kentucky could be doted on as I and my fellow State Teachers of the Year (STOYs) were during this week.  It was an incredible time.

Kentucky Teacher of the Year Kristal Doolin with her husband, Terry, and daughter, Tara. with the Jefferson Memorial behind them. Photo submitted by Kristal Doolin

Kentucky Teacher of the Year Kristal Doolin with her husband, Terry, and daughter, Tara, with the Jefferson Memorial behind them. Photo submitted by Kristal Doolin

From our time at the White House, to our visit with Dr. Jill Biden at her home and our work at the U.S. Department of Education, gratitude seemed to be the order of the week.

In an effort to pay it forward, as we celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week (May 6-11), I’d like to thank both my former teachers and fellow teachers across the state.  I invite everyone who reads this to do the same. As President Obama said during our ceremony in the Rose Garden, “If there’s one thing we can’t say enough to our nation’s educators, it is ‘thank you.’”  I quite agree, Mr. President.

However, we can go further than simply saying “thank you.”  I believe the key to impressing upon teachers how much they are valued and keeping good teachers in the field goes beyond appreciation.  Teachers are consummate professionals who look for “teachable moments” in life the way doctors seek new medical solutions.

While in Washington D.C., for example, I found a plethora of experiential learning opportunities for my daughter and, as she did in Arizona, she recorded her learning to share with her classmates while I blogged about my experiences with my students.  After returning from our time in D.C., as planned, she shared her experiences with her 3rd-grade classmates through a video she made on her iPad.

In the week after we returned, my daughter was invited to share her video and speak to four other classes in her school.  The fact that this was a success and links to common core is like hitting the bull’s eye of the target for me. That is what teachers get excited about – in or out of the classroom.

Kentucky Teacher of the Year Kristal Doolin during her visit to Washington D.C. at the library for the Department of Education.

Kentucky Teacher of the Year Kristal Doolin during her visit to Washington D.C. at the library for the Department of Education.

I agree with President Obama when during that same speech he said, “Teaching is a profession and it should be treated like one.”  This rang true when during our time at the U.S. Department of Education later in the week, my fellow STOYs and I were introduced to the RESPECT project. RESPECT (Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence and Collaborative Teaching), according to our own Commissioner of Education, Terry Holiday, “…is a great initiative.”  It is the result of a two-year effort led by the U.S. Department of Education that involves educators across the nation and several professional organizations lifting teaching to the level deserving of such a profession. RESPECT is not another federal mandate, but is a revolutionary effort that starts with educators.I invite all educators to visit http://www.ed.gov/teaching . Review and discuss the RESPECT document (which was embargoed until recently, but is now available).  See how schools and districts are already working toward a new vision of teaching.  I personally applaud the effort and look forward to the day when teaching is treated at a level equivalent to other professions and each “thank you” is the icing on the cake made of RESPECT.

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Reeling in Greatness

Kristal Doolin

Kristal Doolin

Mark Twain said, “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

Throughout my education, I was very fortunate to be surrounded by remarkable teachers who embodied this quote. My sixth-grade teacher, for example, led me to what I consider to be a defining moment in my life. She convinced me to enter the Daughters of the American Revolution essay contest and taught me that my words could do something beyond our classroom. I won the contest and went on to win several other events, both locally and in the Governor’s Cup Competition. For a little girl living in a small community in Southeastern Kentucky, this experience was huge. My teachers continually gave me the knowledge and tools to do what I wanted no matter what it might be or when it needed to be done.

From the Library Club during school to the Academic Team after school, there were always so many ways to connect me to school through my own interests. Now, as a language arts teacher, I am very passionate about teaching my students to enjoy reading and writing, but I Continue Reading

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