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The Reflective Teacher: The Experience of a Lifetime by Stephanie Blackburn

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Stephanie Blackburn, a 2002 Milken Award winner, teaches fourth grade in Westerly, Rhode Island.

Stephanie Blackburn

The euphoria has not worn off since my return from the recent Milken Awards ceremony in Los Angeles. I am thankful to the Milken Family for allowing me to be part of such an astonishing event. The National Education Conference was one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

By the time my husband and I descended on the elevator to the first night's dinner, I had convinced myself (and I think my husband too) that someone from the foundation soon would approach me, tap me on the shoulder, and say, "I'm sorry. There was some confusion. We made a mistake. We meant to give the award to someone else." All I have to say is that I am proud and happy that did not, in fact, happen.

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What did happen over the next three days, however, was a tribute to the education profession unparalleled by anything else I've ever experienced before. The days were intense. There was much discussion about the quality of teaching and educational policy. Highly acclaimed educators and policymakers debated and presented various ideas about education.

Not only was I awestruck by the presenters, I also was greatly impressed by the other award winners. They all were highly motivated and energetic. It was comforting to be surrounded by so many quality educators; their hard work and dedication was evident, and their enthusiasm was contagious.

As I sat and listened intently, I felt empowered to conquer the world. My mind spun with ideas of how to improve policies in my school, district, and state. I kept thinking, "We could do this and incorporate it with what is happening already"Great idea!...How could we start implementing this?..."

The climax of the conference was an awards ceremony. Never in my life have I been a part of anything so grand. Gowns and tuxedos were everywhere. Food and decorations were breathtaking. Lights and cameras flashed in front of the award winners. When I showed my students the pictures, one little boy remarked, "Mrs. Blackburn, it doesn't look like you were at a conference. It looks like you were at a movie star's party." Boy was he right!

As we approached the door to join the evening's event, the butterflies in my stomach felt as though they would leak out my lips and fill the grand ballroom we were about to enter. When we walked through the door, we were greeted with overwhelming applause from the hundreds of people in attendance. "Oh my," I said quietly to myself. "Are they really here for us?"

When I began my educational career, I never imagined that educators would receive such positive recognition. Politicians, movie stars, radio and news announcers, sports celebrities...all were in attendance for an educational function! Each and every one of us was flattered. It was a significant tribute to all the wonderful teachers and educational leaders around the country. The Milken Family truly recognizes the hard work and efforts of the education profession and strives to continue to offer their support through research and various programs.

I am rejuvenated. I only wish all educators could experience such grand recognition for their choice to become teachers. I've never felt more proud to belong to an organization that affects so many lives.

From now on, when you describe to others what you do, say with pride, "I've got the most important job in the whole world. Everyone should be jealous of what I do. I teach!"

Previous Teacher Diaries

Be sure to see Education World's previous teacher diary features, The First 180 Days: First-Year Teacher Diaries and A First-Year Teacher and Her Mentor.

Article by Stephanie Blackburn
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