Hearing from our peers is powerful! Someone who works alongside us, whom we’ve chosen as one of our best knows exactly what we need to hear. For that reason, it is a tradition for the GISD Teachers of the Year to speak at convocation. This year we were awestruck by those who shared their stories.
Telling her story of learning to LOVE and really KNOWING her students, GES Teacher of the Year, Danette Jewell, reminded us why we have chosen to work in an educational environment. Many educators choose this profession because of family, which is also true for Danette. She spent many hours as a child at the school because her mom and grandmother both worked there. Side by side, she would walk, learn, and collect “cherished items” that would finally chart her course as an educator.
Mentors are priceless! Danette admitted that her first year as a teacher might have been her last if it weren’t for a colleague. This veteran teacher helped her to understand that we are not here to control, but to lead. Danette said, “This made me think back to my Grandma Barb, and how she got the kids in detention to respect and work for her: by showing up for them day after day and doing the work alongside them, while also showing them that she genuinely cared about them. I needed to take the time to really get to know my students.” You see, Danette’s mom and grandmother weren’t classroom teachers, but were members of the custodial staff who taught students the value of hard work and relationships. We are ALL in this together! We are so excited that Danette did not leave teaching that first year and found her way to Gunter where she belongs.
Sometimes having family as an educator makes us want to go in a totally different direction, but no matter how hard we try, we find ourselves right back in it… which is the case of our GMS Teacher of the Year, April Loewen.
April was star struck and had Broadway dreams, but the stage took a backseat to life challenges. Back home in Whitesboro, she found a job with the Grayson County Special Education Co-op as a PPCD aide. With a push (or shove) by her father, April went through the alternative certification program and received her Special Education K-12 Certification. An educator, who believed strongly in education guided April in the direction of education; that educator was her father. As educators, we never give up on a student! April said, “My journey to teaching may look different than yours. I didn’t plan to be a teacher, aspire to be a teacher or want to be a teacher. Teaching called me to its profession.” All the world is a stage, April, and we are so glad you are performing each and every day in your classroom for the most important audience of all! We know your father is so excited for you!
We know, as educators, that people think we are in this for the “summer vacation” … but, what they don’t understand is that many of us give up time in our summer to work with our students in extra-curricular areas. We don’t do this because we are paid for those months, we do it because our students have maneuvered their way into our hearts, and we can’t let them down. The GHS Teacher of the Year, Wendy Osburn, spent most of her summer vacation with FFA students.
Teachers need time to recharge, time to stop and collect their thoughts. Every profession allows for vacation time, and teachers are no different. Wendy reminds us that our days are like the waters at the beach. The beach can be such a calming place … unless, of course, a storm comes.
The best days, the days where there are no storms and you can see the water clear down to the sand are heaven! We feel safe, we feel confident, we feel like we can conquer the world.
The “not so perfect” days, the days when the waters are stirring up the mud a little and fogging our view are harder. We feel anxious, we question whether we are making a difference, we keep on moving to keep our head above water.
The days where the water is so muddy we can’t see anything are the hardest. It is a storm, and we have to reach out for help because we can’t possibly get through this storm alone.
How do we make it through the rougher waters? Wendy reminds us to lean on others for help, and to stay positive. Her favorite saying is “Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult. You may be given a cactus, but you DON’T have to sit on it!”
All of those days spent with a student is worth every minute. You may not see success minute by minute, but you will see success. In Wendy’s case this summer, she saw the culmination of many years of hard work. Walking alongside one of her students, whom she had spent hours with in preparation for so many events throughout the years, who finally reached his ultimate goal of becoming a STATE FFA Officer, he looked at her and said, “WE DID IT”! He didn’t say I, he said WE! Wendy, we love the path you walk with your students. You not only teach them your subject, you prepare them for life. And yes, you are “AGTASTIC”!
Thank you so much for sharing your stories with us. We always need to remember we are not alone, that we are here for a greater purpose, and that we are making a difference.