Teachers Matter – IRA Leadership Conference 2014

Our conference hotel in Tampa was too far to get in some beach time before my flight home, so I found my way to the inviting Sheraton pool. It was one of those times where initial disappointment ends up in a fortuitous moment. I had the opportunity to talk more with the Council President of Arkansas, Caroline Schenk. Although our paths had crossed at the conference, we hadn’t really gotten to know one another. Sitting beside each other at the pool, before the flight home and the daily thunderstorm, was a perfect opportunity to chat.

Caroline’s conference highlight this year was a very personal one. As a little girl, her family lived in Wisconsin. Although she had very fond memories of her time there, she had never been back. Inevitably she has met many people from Wisconsin over the years. The conversation is the same, wherever you are in the world… Where do you live? Do you know…? Most often you don’t know the person, but it’s a good conversation starter. This year, at the 2014 IRA Leadership Conference, things were different for Caroline. She met Susan of the Wisconsin Reading Council. The person that Caroline remembered, just happened to be her Grade 2 teacher, Mrs. Spector.

As with every “favorite” teacher that we hold near and dear to our heart, there are very specific things we remember about our year together. Caroline remembers the journals. Everyday they would take out their journals and write “Dear diary…” Imagine, second grade Caroline who LOVED to write in her journal everyday, emerges as the president of the Arkansas Reading Council of the International Reading (soon to be “Literacy”) Association. Amidst all of the politics and stresses of our jobs, it boils down to one teacher impacting the life of one child with the things she (or he) chooses to do in the classroom. Inspiring, at the very least!

The story gets better. Caroline’s grade 2 teacher, just happened to be the best friend of Susan from Wisconsin. Susan immediately texted her friend, Sue Spector with the big question… “Do you remember Caroline (then Trimble) from second grade in the 70’s?” Now this can be a big stress for a teacher, five years after the fact. The reality is that we just don’t remember every student who we’ve taught over a long career. Forty years later, within five minutes, Mrs. Spector texts back a picture of little girl smiling into the camera. This was the beginning of a conference full of texting, as the teacher and student caught up. Yes, Mrs. Spector is very proud that our Caroline has emerged as a school leader with a leadership role in the International Reading Association. As literacy educators, we are proud that Mrs. Spector chose to make writing such a foundational piece of Caroline’s Grade 2 experience. It’s a story that I’ve heard and experienced many times, but it never fails to evoke goosebumps and a smile 😀

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