Let me go on the record by saying that one of my favorite (now former favorite) phrases to say deals with the concept of “filling another person’s shoes.” Said with the best of intentions, this phrase is used so commonly in the English language to describe when one assumes the responsibilities of someone else. Sometimes, these shoes are average shoes (sneakers, if you will). Sometimes, though, the shoes are “big” and are seen as challenging to “fill” (maybe a shoe that is a different size or style than one is used to wearing). I never gave much thought to this phrase until my mindset on this concept was challenged by 2018 Louisiana State Teacher of the Year Kimberly Eckert.
Her message on this topic resonates deeply with me. No one has to share shoes. Everyone gets to keep their own shoes. Instead, begin walking your own path, making your own decisions and setting your own pace and stride.
The finalists and semi-finalists for 2019 Louisiana State Teacher of the Year are some of the most incredible educators that I have had the pleasure of meeting. Each teacher selected has a powerful story to share and amazing insight into ways to positively impact their schools and their communities.
For me, I was just honored to be in the same room as these educators! Near the end of the night, as we all began to listen intently as the division winners were about to be announced, a great sense of calm excitement rushed over me. It stemmed from the realization that no matter how the evening ended, I was about to embark on something incredible. I was about to be granted the opportunity to work with amazing educators who I would be able to glean so much knowledge, expertise, and passion from. No matter what, my life was about to change for the better, and I was going to become a better teacher for it.
What happened next could only be described as a “whirlwind!” The division winners were announced, then the final award for the evening. Next thing I know, I’m in a car that is more expensive than anything I have ever sat in, shaking hands and receiving hugs from hundreds of people congratulating me for being announced as the 2019 Louisiana Teacher of the Year! A huge shout-out to Dream Teachers and the Louisiana Department of Education for making all of us feel like rock starts that evening.
I experienced emotions I never knew I had! I was most proud to share that moment with my family. They’re the real MVPs in this story. They love and support and tolerate more than they ever should so I can be the best teacher I can to my students.
It’s been about three weeks since the big announcement, and the message that I keep going back to is that message that deals with shoes. Kelly Stomps, Joni Reed, Kimberly Eckert, and the others I’ve had the opportunity to meet have each traveled unique paths as Louisiana State Teachers of the Year. They have each left such a special impression on public education in the state.
“Filling their shoes” isn’t possible. State Teachers of the Year continue walking their own path long after their year in the spotlight is over. Thanks to Kimberly’s message, I realize now that as the 2019 Louisiana State Teacher of the Year, it’s my responsibility to use my own shoes to forge a path toward a new body of work and inspire others with my own message. There’s so much work to be done to elevate our students and the professional in general. I’m proud to add my size 13’s to the fleet of heels and fashionable yet comfortable flats worn by my incredible predecessors.
A huge shout-out to Bossier Schools and the entire Shreveport/Bossier community. I’m so proud to be representing a place that’s so supportive of its teachers. Elm Grove Middle School has been my home for eight years, and I can’t wait to share this year with them!