All In: Guest Blogger Offers Thoughts on the New School Year
This week, Superintendent Jack Smith welcomes a guest blogger to All In. Madeline Hanington, the 2019–2020 Teacher of the Year, is staff development teacher at Hallie Wells. She spoke to staff during the New Educator Orientation in August. Her speech is below:
I am deeply honored to be able to stand here and tell you what an incredible journey awaits you. First and foremost, I want to tell you how special you are. The very fact that you chose to challenge yourself and to share your knowledge with others means there is something within you—something wanting to unleash and empower the potential within students to help them be the best they can be.
You have the power to mold and shape the future. You have the power to lead and draw out the potential within others. That’s huge!
What I want to tell you is that every child that walks into your classroom has a story. You must learn each story in order to understand and be able to connect with each student.
I want to share my story because I feel that I could be one of your students in your class.
My story is one of angst and rejection but along the way, I persevered and persisted and as a result, I am standing here today. I had teachers who were quick to assume that because I am Hispanic and lived in the projects, I wasn’t smart enough or valued my education. They thought that because my parents didn’t speak English, then they didn’t think education was important. One teacher even told me that I shouldn’t be in the AP History class because I was going to be like the others and drop out. They were all dead wrong!
I knew that the only way out of the projects and out of my situation was to get an education. I did not let those teachers squash my dreams and extinguish my desire to be successful. My parents could not help me. Both of my parents are what is known as functioning illiterates. They knew just enough English to be able to get by. They depended on us, myself, my sisters and brother, to help them with everyday tasks. I couldn’t afford to attend field trips. I never went on one. I wore my sister’s old clothes. I shared a bed with my grandma for most of my childhood. I had to always prove myself and work harder than the other students. I didn’t feel like I had a voice. But, all of this didn’t mean that I couldn’t or didn’t want to learn. My teachers never took the time or bothered to get to know me. Don’t be that teacher!
Be that teacher who is not afraid to take risks.
Be that teacher who walks into the school building with a smile—knowing it’s a new day.
Be that teacher who reflects on the day in order to make the next one even better.
Be that teacher who asks questions, asks for help and asks for feedback because that’s how to grow and become better.
Be that teacher who takes the time to get to know students—get to know where they come from, what they like to do, their fears and what they believe in.
Be that teacher who owns mistakes and admits to them—after all, we are human too!
Be that teacher who believes that ALL students can learn and will do everything to empower them and ensure their success!
Be that teacher who believes in students.
I will leave with a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson that I revisit every school year to remind me why I teach.
“To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” I wish you all the very best and hope you have an amazing school year!