Dreams Fulfilled

As the school year came to a close for us this past May, I realized that I had just finished my 20th year in education: six years in 7-12 vocal music, eight years as a technology professional development coordinator, two years in elementary general music, and the last four as a teacher at Anastasis Academy.

At each stage in my education career, I have loved working with my students, both children and adults. But somehow, I always felt something was missing. I didn’t always like that students were required to learn a certain way or a pre-defined set of skills and concepts… and that I was required to teach in a certain way. It didn’t seem like real learning to me.

A good friend of mine, Sharon Comisar-Langdon (who just retired after 34 years!) visited Colorado a while back. It was great to catch up with Sharon and her husband, Randy. I found myself going on and on and on about how much I loved Anastasis and the incredible opportunities we have for our students. At one point, Sharon remarked, “Michelle, what you’re doing at this school is what we ALL went into education to do.”

That statement has stuck with me since that time, and she was right. I have never been happier as a teacher than I am now – watching our students at Anastasis grow in their confidence, ask amazingly deep questions, and become excited about learning! This is a place where students LOVE school. This is a place where teachers love school!

I watched a lot of my teacher friends post countdowns to summer break on Facebook and other social media sites a few months back, and I realized at the time, I had no idea how many days we had left. As much as I enjoy sleeping in occasionally during the summer, I’m not excited for summer break anymore. I miss my students! I miss the joy of learning I am so privileged to witness in those children every single day.

I didn’t mean this to sound like a commercial for our school, but more a testament to what happens when you stick your neck out and do something DIFFERENT. Anastasis is different.

To Kelly Tenkely (who is actually celebrating a birthday today), I express my profound gratitude. Thank you for thinking, “why not me? Why shouldn’t I just start my own school?” Thanks for writing a blog post that started Anastasis. Thank you for making a place where people WANT to be – what I have always loved about teaching and learning happens because of your dreams and drive to make them happen.

This also makes me wonder… why don’t more of us do this? Why don’t we stand up to the lawmakers, those who make and enforce policy, and demand what’s best for kids? Why do we insist on “fixing a broken system” with more of the same things that make kids unhappy? Learning should be an experience that is enjoyable, challenging, and based on the needs of each child. I don’t see that happening in most places.

My friend, George Couros, often asks, “Would you want to be a kid in your classroom?” I can truly answer an enthusiastic YES to that question now… and I wish my own children could have experienced learning in this school as well.

As a child, I knew that I wanted to become a teacher, because I love learning… and I wanted to share that love and joy with others. As much as I enjoyed my previous experiences, there was always something missing. Teaching at Anastasis is not just a job. Now I am able to share my passion about learning with our students. As Sharon noted, I get to do what I always dreamed about doing. The smiles on their faces, the realization you see in their eyes when they learn something on their own terms, the pride they feel when they see their progress, and the joy they experience because they know they’re in a place that honors them as unique individuals – THAT is what I wanted to be able to experience when I dreamt about going into teaching. Dreams fulfilled.

2 thoughts on “Dreams Fulfilled

  1. Jana Scott Lindsay

    My friend…

    Feeling inspired this am reading your post. Watching the ISTE feed on Twitter and thinking back to those days in 2011 when I had the opportunity to connect & learn from you… and many others.

    Finding passion and purpose in our professional lives is the equivalent to finding the Holy Grail in Indiana Jones’ movies I am afraid. But you have managed to think & do what so many others find the impossible.

    I love teaching… I love learning… how is it possible that I can do both each & every day? What a gift:) I have already been on our class blog & connected with students… and have been thinking deeply about what I can do differently in the fall to make student learning magical as I support and guide from the library.

    I made a promise to myself at the end of this year… now that I had a better sense of what my role was as teacher librarian I could continue to do all the things I have been imagining in my brain. It was a year of learning for me… but I think I am ready to take it to the next level.

    I think we need to be reenergized in our profession… and for me that comes through relationships… with colleagues (near or far) and students. We all have something at stake as learners and we are a measure of our best selves when we have individuals who walk beside us as encouragement , a helping hand, a guide, a partner in crime.

    Thank you for sharing this fine Tuesday…

    I still haven’t forgotten about our promise to reconnect face to face… I am adding that to this to-do’s list friend.

    Continue to live in such a way that every day is a gift:)

  2. Michelle Hiebert

    Contratulations on 20 years as a teacher, Michelle! I can truly say at I would want to be a kid in your class. Cheers, my friend!

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