Last night was the gala celebration and announcement of the 2009 Florida Department of Education/Macy's Teacher of the Year. Congratulations to Jean Lamar from Nassau County. Jean now represents the 180,000 teachers of Florida for the upcoming year. I have previously share what a wonderful teacher Jean is and the FLDOE website (listed on this site) has a wonderfully comprehensive overview of her many accomplishments. I wish Jean a fulfilling year; I congratulate the four finalists; and give my thank you to the teachers of Florida for allowing me such a wonderful year.
This has been the single most humbling and rewarding experiences of my life. I will have more to share later, but for now thank you all.
My last official function as Florida Teacher of the Year will go down as one of my favorites! I THREW OUT THE FIRST PITCH FOR THE TAMPA RAYS! With the help of Michelle Todd with Governor Crist's office and the Tampa Rays I got to live a dream and throw out the first pitch at the Tampa Rays vs Kansas City Royals baseball game at Tropicana Field this afternoon.
Accompanying me onto the field was my wife, Susan; my best friend, Jim Lange; and my favorite former principal, Andrew Taylor. Andy has spent the last year battling colon cancer and it was great to see him looking better and having the energy to enjoy a day at the park. His progress has been followed by hundreds of his former teachers and colleagues in Orange County and he is an inspiration to us all.
I slept very little last night; my rotator cuff is torn; I don't throw very well anymore; and I desperately wanted to throw a strike. It just didn't happen. Whether it was the nerves, the sore arm, or just no talent - who knows? I threw it straight, flat and pretty hard. But it one hopped at the plate and I was a bit disappointed with myself. However, I had a great day and enjoyed myself immensely. My ball is in a place of honor and my bat is being signed by the entire team and will be sent back to me so that I can share it with the kids at Camelot Elementary.
The pictures: me with Evan Longoria; our motley crew of field rats; the jumbo tron; and one last look on the field!
Being on the road this year meant postponing a few things in our family. I have had dogs all of my life until I married Susan and was introduced to cats. With all of the animals in my lab, my students are always amazed that I don't have a zoo at home. In fact we have only had two rescued cats for many years. Penner showed up at our door one day and decided that he would adopt us. We named him in honor of the wonderful children's songwriter, Fred Penner. He became the constant companion of our devoted baseball cat, Sox. Unfortunately Sox was an old cat and last summer (right before the Teacher of the Year thing started) he passed on. So poor Penner has been alone and moping and my mother in law, Gert (who lives with us and is 95 years old) was also lonely. As summer approached and we knew there would be a more normal life ahead we began to search for a cat or dog to join the family.
I was very close to getting a dog when we found out about a litter of very young kittens that had been abandoned in a dumpster. One of the ladies at our veterinarian office was hand feeding them and desperately looking for homes for them. So we agreed to take both of the boys! Say hello to our newest family members: Radar (the little black cat named in honor of Radar O'Reilly from MASH); and Chairman Meow Meow (the Siamese who lives up to his name). Penner and Gertie are very pleased!
I spent the better part of this week at the Education Commission of the States' National Forum on Education Policy. This gathering of governors, state policy makers, and education stakeholders met to share ideas on reshaping the future of education in this country. The national state Teachers of the Year were invited to provide insight and input and 24 teachers participated.
In addition to all of the heady discussions, having the chance to talk with Secretary of Education Spellings, and spending time with my NSTOY family there were a few opportunities for socializing. We dined at the Texas Museum of History; watched the 1.2 million bats leave the Little Colorado Bridge (I was five feet above the swarm of fur and wings!) as dusk approached; and listened to incredible Austin City Blues in an establishment (Antone's) that was made famous as a frequent venue of the late great rock and roll bluesman, Stevie Ray Vaughn. The group I listened to for over two hours was incredible!
And of course I spent a lot of quality time flying and sitting in airports reading. It's good to be home!