WCTE, or the Wisconsin Council of Teachers of English is a professional organization for English Educators in our state. They provide many great resources and a home for those teachers among us who see this job as something alive and important. I was lucky enough to be honored by them for my student teaching last year, and I was ridiculously fortunate to be nominated for the first year teacher award this year. Before I had even heard of that happening, I was already in the process of writing a letter of recommendation for the award on behalf of my colleague and friend, Ms. S.  To me, she’s just the teacher du jour, and learning about what she does in her classroom always inspires me to up the ante in my own! To introduce her, briefly, I’ll provide an exerpt from my letter:

In a place where poverty-fed tensions run high, Ms. S is an oasis of peace and consistency for her students. She runs a class where kids always know what is expected of them and how they can reach that goal. Her many classroom management strategies diffuse the intense anger, hunger, and fear that are a daily reality for her students, allowing them to focus on the mysteries of literature. She will stop at nothing to delight and intrigue her students, from incorporating hip-hop lyrics into literary analysis, to bringing digital photography into a unit on identity, to raising enough money so that each and every student can buy a new book of their choice for Christmas. She’s also a master of more traditional instructional forays, particularly when it comes to helping students construct organized, effective essays. She’s giving her students the tools they need to come out of high school as adult readers and writers. An accomplished writer herself (and a National Writing Project fellow), this is one of her greatest strengths.

While I don’t think she really needed my help, I was proud to offer my two cents on behalf of this exemplary first year teacher. To my delight, it was recently announced that Ms. S. is, indeed, the WCTE first year teacher of the year. Congrats, Ms. S!  It’s great to see you recognized for everything that many colleagues and students already knew: you are awesome.

And as if that couldn’t be any cooler, WCTE also sent me a letter stating that, while I did not receive the award, they were deeply impressed at my own classroom innovations, professional esteem, and devotion to my students and colleagues. They generously provided me with a year’s membership to the organization, with hope to see me at next year’s conference.

Two acknowledgements are needed here:

1. WCTE  Chairs and Officers- Thank you for recognizing young teachers. We need it. We work so hard, often against great odds, and often with a passion that outweighs our short experience. This celebration of the “new blood” is exactly what we need to feel like we are welcome and vital to the profession. It is also great to know that the world of English Education is bigger than just our schools or even our districts. Your professional support is so important to seeing the big, collegiate picture of this career that we share.

2. First Year Teachers- Thank you for working yourselves to tears, to exhaustion, to joy. Whether you’ve got an award to show for it or not, you are a hero in my eyes. We’re shaping the future of education, hopefully for the better. We can do it. We’re smart, and we’re here. To all of you, congrats on completing Year One!