You look around the room and see the light bulbs flash in their eyes; they “get it.” You know your lesson has resonated with them and the nods confirm their comprehension. These moments are powerful to see in students, but they’re equally as powerful to see among teachers.
Dré Graham, 2020 Florida teacher of the year and doctoral student in FSU’s learning design and performance technology program, was able to experience this firsthand. Graham served as the emcee at this year’s Florida Teacher of the Year Roundtable, a week-long event that culminates in the Florida Teacher of the Year Gala. All district teachers of the year, former statewide winners, Florida Department of Education staff and sponsors attend the annual event.
“That week is simply phenomenal,” said Graham. “It is empowering both for the participants and the facilitators. Having the opportunity to see the ‘aha’ moments in educators, watch them build relationships and be encouraged to embrace the opportunity is such an incredible experience.”
In addition to his emcee role, Graham lead a session entitled, “You Are Here on Purpose for a Purpose.” The session tackled the issue of imposter syndrome: what it was, what it wasn't and how it applies to their current state. Graham defined imposter syndrome as “the feeling that your achievements are not real or that you do not deserve the praise you are receiving.”
“One of the first things we like to do during the Teacher of the Year Roundtable is address the fact that most, if not all, teachers feel as though they don't belong,” said Graham. But becoming a district teacher of the year is no small feat, as it requires an incredible commitment to your craft and purpose. “I wanted them to understand that their perspective gained a platform when they were selected to represent their districts as the Teacher of the Year,” he said. By virtue of their selection, these educators are recognized as experts in their field and have demonstrated a commitment to their students and to the profession of teaching.
Throughout the event, Graham was joined by other former Florida Teachers of the Year to impart wisdom and lessons learned to their fellow educators. Krista Stanley, the 2021 Florida Teacher of the Year and current student in FSU’s educational leadership/administration master’s program, helped lead this conversation.
Stanley presented a session entitled, “Rise Higher,” in which she described challenges she met in her first year of teaching. As all teachers know, that first year in the classroom can be tough. From figuring out classroom management strategies to learning how to best reach each student, it can be a daunting hill to climb. However, it can also be a learning experience. Stanley made a commitment after that first year to learning something new each summer to better help her students.
Stanley challenged her fellow educators to do the same. “Reach higher for yourself as an educator and for your students,” she said. “Instill a confidence in your students that empowers them to go out and change the world. Every student is capable. Every student is worthy. Be intentional with your words and actions and show every student that they are capable of success.”
The week's events concluded with the Florida Teacher of the Year Gala, where Dean Andrew shared information about Project ElevatED. As part of this initiative, the FSU College of Education offers a three-year graduate tuition waiver to each Florida Teacher of the Year. This year, we're pleased to offer the waiver to Sarah Ann Painter from Pinellas County, who was named the 2022 Florida Teacher of the Year.
As we elevate and celebrate these outstanding educators, it's clear the event has an impact on its attendees. “Being in a room of 74 individuals who are passionate about education and making a difference in the lives of students is unlike any other environment in the world,” said Graham.
The FSU College of Education is proud to be a sponsor of the Florida Teacher of the Year program as part of Project ElevatED. Learn more about this and other initiatives of Project ElevatED at education.fsu.edu/elevated.