A Strong Sense of Peace and a Bit of Relief

Photo: 2016 Washington State Teacher of the Year Ceremony, OPSI

Photo: 2016 Washington State Teacher of the Year Ceremony, OPSI

Today my friend Jahana Hayes of Connecticut was named the 2016 National Teacher of the Year. If you’re disappointed on my behalf, you shouldn’t be. I am happy for her and think she will be an ideal ambassador for the profession. From the moment I met her and the other two finalists in San Antonio, Daniel and Shawn, I’ve had peace about the process. I knew that no matter who was selected, the profession would be well represented. They’re amazing pedagogues and even better people.

I have been so blessed this past year. I’ve had at least ten once in a lifetime opportunities and my amazingly supportive wife has been side-by-side with me, every step along the way. I mean come on….

Went to Women’s World Cup in Vancouver

Took my dad to the US Open

Traveled in Hong Kong and taught in Chengdu, China

Hosted the President of China in my classroom

Named 2016 Washington State Teacher of the Year

Addressed the Washington State House and State Board of Education on teacher quality and the impact of chronic under-funding

Traveled to Oakland, Denver, New Orleans and Washington DC to speak and advocate about ed policy issues

Wrote a blog post, discussing the cruel reality of education inequity, that earned 1,000,000 clicks and was republished in several major news outlets

Threw out the first pitch at a Mariner's game

Invited to speak at Harvard Graduate School of Education

….And next week I will shake hands with the first black President of the United States, in the Oval Office, in the final year of his presidency

I feel guilty even typing all that. I am not sad; I am not disappointed and you shouldn’t be sad for me either. I am reminded of an old gospel song, called I Won’t Complain. When I was young, Reverend Banks would belt it out whenever the opportunity arose. It is permanently in my head. When I close my eyes, I can see him getting choked up and reaching for his handkerchief to wipe his brow and tears:

God's been so good to me
The Lord has been so good to me
More than this old world
Or you could ever be
The Lord has been so good to me
And He dried my tears away
And He turn all my midnights into days
 
So I'll say thank you Lord
I just say thank you Lord
I'll just say thank you Lord
I won't complain

Next year I am going to be right where I belong and I couldn't be happier. I love standing in front of a class and seeing them start to drift and then switching up the lesson with an anecdote or a provocative question that sets the room ablaze. I love everything about the job (except the pay, meetings and grading) and will continue to be a blunt advocate for my students and the profession, in Washington State and beyond.

The National Teacher of the Year is released from their classroom for a full year and tours the country, speaking at various events to "stakeholders." Honestly, that idea has made me queasy from the moment it was explained to me.

I am good where I am at.

My place is on the Eastside of Tacoma. My place is at Lincoln High School. My place is in room #306. My place is wearing a cardigan, rapping with my kids about Iron Triangles, federalism and the enumerated powers of Congress. My place is helping kids fill out FAFSAs and challenging them to be better people and work harder. 

Onward.

Nathan Bowling

Republic of Cascadia