Thursday, March 2, 2017

Slice of Life Story Challenge #2 - Unforgettable Stories - My Fifteen Minutes of Fame

It's the March Slice of Life Story Challenge at Two Writing Teachers!

     I shared the chapter "Unforgettable Stories" from Ralph Fletcher's A Writer's Notebook with my classes on the eve before the March Challenge for some inspiration for Slices of Life, so I'm writing a few on the topic, also.

     Did you see or hear about the debacle at the end of the  89th Academy Awards when La La Land was accidentally named "Best Picture"?  The actual winner was Moonlight.  Because Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were given the wrong award card (it was Emma Stone's "Best Actress" announcement for La La Land) and Dunaway announced La La Land for "Best Picture".  The cast and crew all came up, completely overwhelmed with excitement, and they were mostly through all the emotional acceptance speeches when the mistake was corrected.  Oh, the shock and confusion.  Ugh.  You can see it all in the video clip.  It was actually handled quite well by everyone, but it took me back to my own 15 minutes (La La Land didn't even get quite that long) of fame in the beginning of this school year.

     Last spring, I was amazed to hear that I was nominated for Ohio Teacher of the Year.  The idea of that honor had never been a part of my wildest dreams.  It was incredible.  After the nomination, I had to fill out a rather lengthy application and get three letters of recommendation.  The application and letters were due in May, right at the end of the school year, so it was a bit stressful.  I got it all in, though, and awaited the next step.  In June, I found out that I had won the State Board District 4 Teacher of the Year (there are 10 State Board District winners), and the next step was finding out who the next round of finalists were.  

     In July, I got the exciting call that I was one of 5 finalists and that I had to prepare for an interview and presentation in August in Columbus.  There was a time limit to the presentation, so I chose my focus, wrote it, designed the visuals, and practiced and practiced, revised and revised.  I backed it up every which way because technology is the craziest - you never know if it's all going to work.  I had it on both my school and home Google accounts, saved it as a PowerPoint, and put it on a Flash Drive.  I didn't have a reliable laptop at the time, so I confirmed with the liaison that I could borrow hers when I got there.  

     I had to chuckle to myself when I walked into the conference room where the interview was held.  There were about 8 people facing me as I walked into a cavernous lecture hall, all situated behind a gigantic curved conference table, made up of former Ohio Teachers of the Year, superintendents, and Ohio State Board of Education members.  I wasn't sure who the various people stationed around the rest of the room were.  There was a lone chair centered in the room facing the panel.  Could it have been more intimidating?!?  I think not.

     However, each interviewer was friendly and open, and they asked excellent questions.  I felt good about all my answers, except maybe one.  I ruminated over that one for a while afterward.  But I still felt relaxed and confident by the time it was over.  Then it was time for the presentation.  I trembled slightly with trepidation as the woman who offered me her laptop hooked it all up, and logged on to Google. Oh Glory, it all worked!  I began my presentation, and once I got underway, I was feeling great.  It was going the way I had practiced, and the panel was responding with smiles, nods, and bright-eyed positive feedback.  And then....the laptop died.  The battery ran out!  I couldn't believe it.  After some awkward attempts to find other outlets to plug it into, they finally swapped another one in its place, and I resumed.  I tried to make jokes, keep light-hearted and relaxed, but man...the momentum had definitely stalled.  They were gracious - they gave me more time, and they even said I handled myself well under pressure (well, um...I'm a teacher - ha), and thanked me when it was over. With a smile and handshakes, I exited.  Once outside, I heaved a deep sigh.  Whew! 

     I waited for the final announcement.  Despite the snafu, I still felt okay, and who knows?  It could've actually helped me.  And I knew there were all kinds of other factors involved in the decision.  The school year started, and we weren't sure exactly when the announcement would come, so it stayed on the back burner of my mind while I began with my 5th and 6th graders. Then one day, while I was reading aloud to my morning class of 6th graders, my principal came in, looking wide-eyed and excited.  What was this all about?  And then I realized...oh my...could it be?  She asked if we could talk in the hall.  I looked at my class and told them I'd be right back.  They looked a little confused.  Once we were in the hall, she started jumping up and down, completely beside herself, and said I had won!!!  "WHAT?!  I WON?!"

    "Yes!" she breathlessly exclaimed.  "You're Ohio Teacher of the Year!  Congratulations!"  We hugged and even cried a bit.  The best description of my feelings is that I was stunned.  Speechless.  Amazed.  I walked back into the room, and my students couldn't figure out what in the world was going on.  When I told them, they all jumped up and gathered around me, resulting in a giant group hug!  They were so sweet.  I talked a little about it and then got right back to reading aloud.

     That was my 15 minutes of fame (interesting article about that phrase here).  Not even a half hour later, I got another visit from my principal,this time much more subdued, explaining that she had mistakenly read the e-mail incorrectly, and it was just a formal press release of the finalists, which we already knew.  When I looked at it, I completely understood how she could have read it the way she did.  But wow.  That was a hard let down!  At the time, though, it was still a possibility.  The actual announcement didn't come until the next week, and I learned it wasn't me.  When I read the winner's biography, I knew the right person was chosen.  Dustin Weaver is amazing!  Congratulations, Dustin!  You make us proud to be educators!  When all is said and done, at least I know what it feels like to be chosen as a state teacher of the year...if only for a little while.


  1. This made me chuckle a bit--it was very much the LaLa Land/Moonlight debacle in education world. But, wow, what a week that must have been waiting for actual results

  2. What a rollercoaster! You're our Teacher of the Year 😘

  3. You're a winner in every way Holly !!!!!

  4. Wow what a crazy story!! That is definitely relatable to the Oscars moment. Congratulations on being a finalist, that is amazing!

  5. Aww, man! What a story - and complete connection to the Oscars. Sorry that happened, but glad you can chuckle now.

  6. Wow! That's a Slice of Life to remember! Well I think you're a TEACHER OF THE YEAR in any state, in my book! "It's nice just to be recognized." Congratulations anyway! (Jennifer Sniadecki)

  7. What an amazing story! I can't think of a teacher more deserving. You handled it with your typical grace and dignity.

    So glad to read your post as always!

  8. Love the connection to the Oscars! And I agree with Greg - I'm sure Dustin is amazing, but so are you!

  9. Flash to the "it's an honor just to be nominated, and I'm so honored to be among the finalists" part of the usual Oscars speech--and now you know that expression is trite because it's true. Your 15 minutes of fame may have ended, but the honor of being a teacher--that is enduring!