NOTE: The following is the text of the closing remarks at the 2010 Chesterfield County School District Teacher of the Year Banquet, written and delivered by Juli Powers, the 2009 Teacher of the Year for Chesterfield County Schools:
After I’d had a particularly harrowing day a while back, my nephew Charlie, who has the gift of seeing life as a wonderful adventure everyday, shot a brilliant grin at me and said, “Juli! Just shine on!”
Shine on. What an uplifting and timely mantra.
In these tenuous times of economic downturn, job loss, and the ultimate fright of families losing their homes, it takes someone downright fearless to be able to shine on.
We are looking at some of the most fearless folks we will ever know right here tonight: Teachers. And I include our principals in this group, as you are teachers also, every day.
We continue to toil mightily even though resources shrink daily. We are not afraid to bestow a sense of power to others rather than hoard it for ourselves, and we are willing to accept change with grace.
We thrive on the fact that we are not looking for a bail out; we ARE the bail out! When budget cuts tell us that we are out of copy paper, or tell us our staff is being reduced, or there’s no money to buy classroom supplies, we shine on and work even harder with less because our children deserve us at our best.
When we hear of outrageous bonuses being paid out to the powerful in the corporate world, we shine on and continue to quietly bestow the power of learning to our children. We know in our hearts that our bonuses come when we feel a child’s tiny hand slip into ours, or when a burly tenth grader whispers a humble “thank you” when he gets a passing HSAP score.
When we read in the paper about the accolades handed out in the business world, we know that our honors come when we sit in the stands and cheer for our student athletes, or prepare an academic bowl team, or chart emerging reading growth of a student who, a month ago, struggled with a word as simple as C-A-T.
We know the greatest honor comes, not over a power lunch of sushi and martinis, but over our 30-minute lunch of carrots and peas in the cafeteria when, for the very first time, our student with autism finally initiates an independent conversation with a peer.
When educational trends or budget woes dictate yet another demand, we shine on and say, “Whatever it takes.”
Today, we still hear folks call our schools “The School House.” This historic moniker has never been more appropriate than it is right now. It is the one “house” that will not experience foreclosure because we will never foreclose on our children. It is the one house that is brimming with a powerful family of teachers and principals who know that to be fair, we must not give everyone the same thing, but we must give each what he or she needs to be successful, because it is unacceptable to leave anyone behind.
We know what it means to be fearless, to be powerful, to be fair, and we know all about grace.
This is because we are teachers, and we do know how to shine on.