Super Space Camp

A wet arrival in Hunstville is made better with friends!

A wet arrival in Hunstville is made better with friends!

After being delayed in Kansas for 5 days, I was just grateful to have made my flight from Phoenix to Atlanta.  But when I saw 5 very familiar and friendly STOY faces at the gate for the flight from Atlanta to Huntsville, I almost cried tears of joy.  I allowed myself to realize that I was in for the week of a lifetime as a total space geek.  But the best part was landing in Huntsville and seeing school-age Space Campers in flight suits.  I had to ask a few of them how their week went.  One pre-teen boy told me, “This was the awesomest week of my life!”  The excitement built even more!

Saturday

We got divided into teams for missions, classes, and challenges.  I was put in Team Destiny with some of my closet STOY friends and some new friends from around the country and world.  We designed our mission patch and had a shuttle hardware briefing for an upcoming mission.

Destiny patch

Team Destiny’s Patch: “To the stars through education!”

That evening we participated in the International Space Camp opening ceremony with Astronaut Dr. Don Thomas (3 missions on Columbia and 1 on Discovery).  He spoke of his dream of being an astronaut since he was a small boy, ever since his school had all the kids watch the moon landing.

Dr. Don Thomas

Dr. Don Thomas

We participated in the Parade of Nations, revealing our costumes we’d kept hidden from each other for weeks.  We were each representing our state or country.

My mate from Australia

My mate from Australia

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“The Rangers” both Texas and Park.

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Park Ranger, arch, gold rush and chilies.

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Proudly representing Arizona!

We ate dinner under the Saturn V rocket.

A side view of Saturn V

A side view of Saturn V

Sunday

It was time for Team Destiny’s shuttle mission.  I was elected to be Pilot with my buddy Steve, Indiana STOY, as Commander.  “Seeing” space, piloting a shuttle, and successfully completing a mission was a childhood dream come true.  But feeling so responsible for my team and knowing we were being graded made the experience a bit stressful.  There were so many buttons to push so quickly!  It was incredible!

Commander and Pilot

Commander and Pilot

The view from CAPCOM during our mission.

The view from CAPCOM during our mission.

The DuMidi Southern ladies group hosted a delicious dinner under the Saturn V rocket on the 45 anniversary of the moon landing.  There was even a grits bar!  But the best part was eating dinner with people who had worked on the Saturn V rocket and the Apollo missions.  I sat by a physicist and radar engineer and we had a great physics discussion.

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The view toward the front of Saturn V Hall

Monday

Our day began with a rocketry workshop.  I built a red, white and blue tie dye rocket – the Patriotic Hippy.

The Patriotic Hippy

The Patriotic Hippy

We toured the Rocket Park and learned tons of interesting history with the rockets right in front of us.  Then we moved on to an aviation and water survival challenge.  The zipline simulated a parachute escape out of an aircraft.  There was also a simulated helicopter crash and basket rescue.  We made it really fun and repeated the challenge over and over again with new ailments each time – “This time when you hit the water, your water breaks and you go into labor!”  “You break both legs in the crash!” “This time you hit your head and think you’re Super Man!”

The challenges and lake

The challenges and lake

Ready for the challenge!

Ready for the challenge!

Team Destiny’s next mission took place on the moon.  We had to communicate between moon bases and an orbiter while changing astronaut teams and assessing asteroid damage on one of the bases.  This time, I was CAPCOM (Capsule Communications) – responsible for relaying all information between the orbiter and flight deck.

CAPCOM

CAPCOM

CAPCOM during the mission

CAPCOM during the mission

My view of the ship from base command

My view of the ship from base command

Next was an Ablative Shielding challenge where we had to design a shield to keep our “eggstranaut” cool for 3 minutes of blow torch torture.  Team Unscrambled chose Eggstranaut Bart Simpson.  Our shield held for the full 3 minutes and Bart was cool to the touch. We won!

Our winning Eggstranaut!  Go Team Unscrambled!

Our winning Eggstranaut! Go Team Unscrambled!

Tuesday

We got to launch our rockets, then head over to Area 51 for low ropes team building.

Area 51

Area 51

We participated in a lunar mission challenge to design and build a lunar lander and rover that could survive a drop and travel.  Ours was beautiful and had a very effective parachute, but we did not win.

It may not be the winner, but it was beautiful!

It may not be the winner, but it was beautiful!

Wednesday

Our morning began with ECLSS (Environment Control and Life Support Services) training. We created our own water purification systems to recycle…well, in our case it was mostly lemon juice (I hope).

Bottoms up!  Extra points for drinking it!

Bottoms up! Extra points for drinking it!

Then on to the astronaut simulators, thankfully before lunch.

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Wheeeee!

1/6 gravity is awesome!

1/6 gravity is awesome!

The MAT was really fun!

The MAT was really fun!

Our guest speaker was Ed Buckbee (author of The Real Space Cowboys) who told some priceless stories about our original astronauts.  In the evening we had the National Teacher of the Year reception with Homer Hickam, author of many books including Rocket Boys, which the movie October Sky was based upon and which will be a Broadway musical soon.  He was a great speaker and read aloud from his book.

Loved him!

Loved him!

Thursday

Before I knew it, it was graduation day. Astronaut Bob Springer was our Master of Ceremonies.  We were each given a 30,000 mile coin by the army at Redstone Arsenal.  We were given our wings and a certificate.  I was so proud of my mate, Kate of Australia, for winning the Space Camp Ambassador award.  She earned it with her spirit and enthusiasm.

Graduation!

Graduation!

Packing was intense due to the massive amount of classroom materials and NASA goodies I was trying to squeeze into my bags.  Our goodbye party was emotional. Our close-knit group of STOYS never want to leave each other.  And now we had to goodbye to our new international and American friends, too.

Friday

Friday morning came way too early, but I again got to have friends at the airport in Huntsville and Atlanta.  Although I came home to Phoenix to 114 degrees and monsoon season, it was great to be back with my loved ones, returned safely from my time in space.  I’m thinking Family Space Camp for our next vacation!

TOYTough

Unforgettable!

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Arizona’s Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teachers and Teaching (ECET2) Convening

Last year, several teacher leaders from the state of Arizona wrote a grant proposal to the Gates Foundation to bring a local convening of Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teachers and Teaching (ECET2) here.  We (Taryl Hansen of the Arizona K12 Center, Misha Freeman of the Littleton school district, Cheryl Redfield of the Gilbert school district, myself, and our mastermind, Kristie Martorelli of the Dysart school district) received the grant and got planning!  We arranged for people to share inspirational stories of teacher leadership, and assisted teacher leaders in exploring their passions and expanding their voices and influence.  It was a successful weekend full of enthusiasm!

Some proud members of the planning committee

Some proud members of the planning committee

ECET2

ECET2

My keynote is below:

speakingatECET2

I’ve been looking forward to this weekend and I’m so excited now that it’s finally here.  This weekend we are here to celebrate teachers and teaching.  Look at who is in this room right now.  I see a room filled with change agents, leaders, and people I am so proud to call colleagues.  Thank you for your contributions to education and your school communities. It has not gone unnoticed.

You are about to hear your colleagues’ diverse, personal stories of leadership.  We’re going to hear what inspired them, and what motivates them to maintain leadership.  Any of these could be you.  You were chosen to be here because one of these organizations sees leadership in what you do.  You’ll be able to listen for your stories in these amazing teacher leaders’ stories.  I’m sure that you’ll hear patterns, and recognize your experience in theirs.  As Maya Angelou said, “The sum of us is greater than all our parts.”  This weekend we will be learning from each other, together, to become stronger as a whole.  This weekend we are planting the seeds that will grow into a better future for our Arizona schools and students.

I’ve learned that there are plenty of people out there telling stories about teaching, teachers, and schools.  If you don’t tell your story, someone will tell it for you.  This weekend is about amplifying your story and your passion.

What's Your Story?  Don't let someone else tell it!

What’s Your Story? Don’t let someone else tell it!

You are here not only because you are the most phenomenal teachers we know, but also because there is a passion gnawing at you, knocking on your subconscious. This weekend will be your chance to find it or turn up the volume on that thing that inspires you to lead.  Is it your students, your community, inequality that you witness in our system, or making a change for the better? Some of you might be waiting for an invitation to lead. This is it.

This where my leadership story begins.  I went through the National Board certification process beginning around 2006.  The process opened my eyes to the professional in our profession.  It taught me more about the complexity and depth, the art and science of our chosen career.  It taught me how to reflect on my practice and why that was so important.  As I was completing the process and thinking about what my next steps may be, someone asked me that question…what would you do if you weren’t afraid?  Or, as I heard it, how could I find the courage to speak out on behalf of my profession?  I knew the answer right away.  You see, in my view, the importance of National Board Certification lies in what it conveys about the teacher who achieves it.  It is the evidence of a dedicated professional teacher who is an expert in the field of education, who embodies leadership, lifelong learning, and a commitment to schools, colleagues, and students.  It is the ultimate evidence of a dedicated, knowledgeable professional.

I had been noticing for a while how people outside of our field make the decisions that affect our teaching and our students’ daily lives in our classrooms.  Meanwhile, I’m the one with a BA and an MA in teaching and learning, a National Board certified teacher with 15 years of experience in the classroom!  With all the qualifications, I kept wondering… when I would be qualified enough to play a part in the decision-making process?

I don’t see any other profession led by outside forces more than us.  Maybe that’s because our profession is so important.  But it’s because it’s so crucially important that it should be up to the expert practitioners to lead.  So I decided it’s time to tap into classroom experts as the source of solutions.  Teachers must be heard and lead the way.

As Dr. Dennis Shirley told some of us this summer at the Teacher Leadership Institute, “Let’s imagine a profession where the practitioners lead.” 

Dr. Shirley and me at the Teacher Leadership Institute

Dr. Shirley and me at the Teacher Leadership Institute

So I started talking to anyone who would listen.  I started blogging and networking with other bloggers and following their blogs.  I started reading EdWeek and participating in Arizona K12 Center’s #edweekeveryweek.  I started working as a Candidate Support Provider so that I could assist other people that I knew were National Board certified teachers – they just didn’t have that piece of paper yet.  My leadership journey isn’t over…it evolves all the time.  But through this journey I’ve gotten to know and work with so many teachers right here in this room.  And I’ve had the opportunity to work with teachers from all over the US who are advocating for the same things we are.  My professional life has changed due to using my teacher voice beyond my classroom walls.  But the most important thing is how it has continued to enhance my classroom practice.

Because that’s why we do this.  That’s why we care.

So that’s how I got here.  That’s how my flame was lit.  The belief that teachers should lead the profession of teaching.  I decided to act without fear.  Your flame is already lit. That’s why you’re here. It’s our job to light more flames, those of policy makers, administrators, parents, community members.   We need to help our colleagues find their teacher voice outside of the four walls of our classrooms.  Hope is not a plan.  This weekend you will make a plan.  We will make plans together.

Setting goals

Setting goals

So what would you do if you weren’t afraid?  Let’s find out.  Let’s be fearless!

What would you do if you weren't afraid?

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Here are some other “take aways” that I got from our weekend of fabulous teacher fellowship:

The amazing Dysart team

The amazing Dysart team

Betsy Hargrove, the Superintendent of Avondale schools spoke eloquently about 4 important things teacher leaders must have: Hope, Love, Faith, and Risk.  The minute we start negativity among ourselves, it opens the door for others to speak negatively about us.

Andew Morrill, the Arizona Education Association President, speaking about the AEA said: “We are a fan club for educators around the state.”

Howard Paley with the Rodel Foundation gave this advice: “Inspire people to want to change.”

Kathy Weibke of the Arizona K12 Center spoke passionately about teachers using our voices: “We cannot lose another generation of children to ill-gotten policies.”

Daniela Robles, a teacher leader and board member of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards noted: “When we build the capacity of teachers, we build the capacity of students.”

My personal “Wow!” moment was meeting Katie Paetz, a music teacher who was just beginning a highly contested school board seat in the Osborn school district.  I was so inspired by her willingness to take a large personal risk to do what is best for students.  Talk about getting teachers at the table!  A wonderful footnote to this story is that Katie won!

Katie's School Board Election Win

Katie’s School Board Election Win

Have you attended a local ECET2 convening? What was your experience?