Teachers of the Year in Washington, D.C.: A professional adventure

Amber Vlasnik in Washington, D.C., for the State Teachers of the Year conference.
Amber Vlasnik in Washington, D.C., for the State Teachers of the Year conference.

By Amber Vlasnik, 2017 Nebraska Teacher of the Year, Lincoln High School (Noyce Master Teaching Fellow)

There was a moment as I stood in the Lincoln Memorial, surrounded by State Teachers of the Year from all across the country – singing the national anthem - that I knew this was an experience I would never forget. The 2017 class of Teachers of the Year from every state and territory met in Washington, D.C., in April for a week of conversation, growth, and advocacy. My time with this group of amazing educators has taught me many things – most importantly the power of teacher voice.

We spent a day at the ASCD headquarters in Alexandria, where we had the opportunity to record our stories. We were asked to share about a colleague who has impacted our teaching, and I thought of many of the teachers I have met through NebraskaMATH. I chose to share about a conversation with a colleague who challenged me with the questions “Did the students learn it?" and "How do you know?” Simple reflective conversations like this have truly molded me into the teacher I am today. The network of hardworking, intelligent, and caring teachers we have here in Nebraska is truly one of our greatest resources.

In order to recruit and retain highly effective teachers for every classroom in Nebraska, we need to tell our stories. Many of the conversations I have had with policymakers and stakeholders have centered around the idea of having highly effective teachers in every classroom for every student. We can only do this work by preparing and supporting current and future teachers. We need to elevate the teaching profession to show future educators that this is a profession worth the late night lesson planning, the interrupted plan periods, and endless stacks of grading. Teaching is truly one of the most difficult, yet rewarding jobs one can have. And I am so thankful to do this work here in our great state.

Editor's Note: Amber also gave the commencement address at the University of Nebraska at Kearney on May 6, 2017. You can watch her speech in a video at http://www.unk.edu/about/event-dashboard.php