Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Strong Schools Matter

at Two Writing Teachers!
Since our levy failed last year, my district is back on the ballot again this year. Another Tuesday of knots in my stomach and blood thumping through my body more powerfully than usual.  Another Tuesday of waiting and hoping.

This year, the committee of parents and staff members committed to passing the levy decided to collect stories about the impact our schools have made on people's lives.  They posted the stories to Facebook and their website, created videos, and even organized Twitter chats so current and former students could share what our district has meant to them.

I attended our district K-12 and know that I would not be who I am today without the amazing experiences I had in our schools.  Even though I've still been swamped with work lately, I knew I could not pass up the opportunity to share my story, so I dropped everything Friday evening and sat down to write.  But could I make a difference?  Would anyone even read it?

Within a few hours, more than 60 people (some of my colleagues, some of my former teachers, and some strangers!) had liked my post on Facebook.  My mom called me to say that her staff members were telling her about how good my post was, and she said that it brought tears to her eyes.  My writing had moved people!  It was just like slicing!

Since it's Tuesday, I'd love to share it with all of you:

My husband makes fun of the fact that I can name every teacher I had K-12, and he laughs at the childlike adoration with which I still talk about them.  But he didn’t attend Dublin City Schools.  He didn’t have the thousands (perhaps millions) of unique, memorable learning opportunities that I had.

In first grade, Dr. Wright had a cardboard spaceship that we could read in during our space unit.  In LEAP, Mrs. Lytle helped us embrace our creativity and stretch our brains with thematic units like a simulation of ancient Japan. She also taught us the most important lesson that a perfectionistic gifted kid can learn: “I am lovable and capable.” During middle school, I lived for the fun goofiness of Mr. Prosser’s Funky Rubber Chickens (Odyssey of the Mind) but also embraced the serious skill-building of Power of the Pen.  And even as athletically challenged as I am, the opportunity to try out middle school track taught me to overcome my fears by running hurdles… even though I was only 4’10”!

I can’t even begin to list all of the amazing learning experiences I experienced at Coffman High School.  From building a model house with real circuits in Ms. Milanovich’s physics class to traveling to Boston to make American Lit and AP US History come alive, my classes were full of authentic, real-world learning.  The fantastic Spanish program enabled me to score a 5 on the AP test, ultimately allowing me to jump directly into 400-level Spanish courses at Ohio State.  And nothing taught me more about persistence, hard work, collaboration, and striving for excellence than being in the Coffman Marching Band under Dr. Keller. 
While these incredible experiences certainly made a huge difference in my learning, the best part of Dublin City Schools was knowing that my teachers cared about me.  In third grade, Dr. Kumpf let me spend my indoor recesses using my inventions (like the “Sankey Staple Pick-up and Bucket”) to help her.  When my reading level surpassed all the books available at Scottish Corners, I was allowed to miss class to go into the hallway and talk about reading with an older student who was also a voracious reader.  At Sells, Ms. Ward went out of her way to nurture my interest in Native Americans, like the time she let me help her tan deer hides in the traditional way during Indian Day at Highbanks Metro Park.  After our last contest my senior year, gruff Dr. Keller choked up while telling us that our score was just 0.3 points away from our class goal of surpassing the highest score in DCHSMB history.  As we stood around him in the dark parking lot, we all knew that he cared about us just as much as we had wanted to do well for him. 
If I really wanted to describe each moment in my educational experience that had this type of impact on me, I’d end up writing a book.  Instead, I’ll just say that being a student in Dublin City Schools changed my life.  Because of Dublin City Schools, I was able to excel academically in so many different subjects that I had trouble deciding what I wanted to be.  I became a National Merit Finalist and got a full scholarship to the only university I ever wanted to attend: Ohio State.  After the engaging and challenging learning opportunities I had K-12, most of my college courses seemed boring and easy.  When I made The Ohio State University Marching Band in a regular spot, the rigorous practices were just a natural continuation of my marching band experience at Coffman.  (Honestly, the band’s rehearsal discipline seemed a little lax to me!)

All around me, I saw students from other school districts who struggled with the workload in their classes and were not prepared for the marching and musical demands of the marching band.  I started to feel pride fill my chest when I told people that I was from Dublin, because I discovered that they knew what that meant.  No matter where they were from, my fellow band members and classmates had heard of Dublin.  They knew it was a district of academic excellence and a cradle of future TBDBITLers.  When I was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, one of my Dublin Coffman classmates was right beside me.  I realized that growing up in Dublin was a gift that had a profound impact on my future. Now, as a Dublin teacher, I strive every day to give my students that same gift: to provide them with unique, challenging learning experiences and show them that I care. 
Please vote YES on Issue 48 for my students, because Dublin City Schools can change their lives. That’s what it did for me.
(cross-posted at the Dublin Good Schools Committee) 
Now it's just time to wait.


  1. The waiting game is so hard.

    Kudos to you for that incredible piece of writing. I hope it brings about the change you're hoping for! Let me know.

  2. A wonderful tribute to your school district. How lucky you are to continue as a teacher in such an academically rigorous environment.
    Best wishes for a favorable vote.

  3. Jennifer, your writing gave me goosebumps as you told of the many individuals who impacted your life. What a powerful piece! I hope the right people had a chance to read this and they will vote favorably today. Please come back tonight and tell us how it turned out.

  4. I love every word, & wish so much that you'll get your bond passed. We have a few bonds trying to pass too here in the Denver area. You've written such a wonderful set of memories, Jennifer. I do love each part & can kind of follow the path because it sounds something like my children's path and some of what I taught, & still do. I just described the IALAC (I am loving and caring) activity to a teacher the other day.You are also terrific to take the time to make a difference yourself. I see it every time you discuss your work. Thank you for sharing one of your loves!

    1. Thanks Linda! That's cool that you used IALAC too but funny that it had a slightly different meaning! My teacher gave us pens with that on it and it was such an important message for kids who stressed out too easily and expected so much of themselves. Your meaning is neat too because of its focus on others!

  5. Just awesome! (And what a memory!!) Best of luck to the Dublin City Schools!!

  6. Wow! What wonderful learning opportunities and individuals you've encountered in your education. Wishing you luck on the levy.

  7. Thank you all for your kind words! The levy passed!!! I'm so relieved.

  8. I read your powerful testament to what schools can do and then saw the comment that the levy had passed. You must feel so proud for doing your part in making sure that your unique voice was heard. Bravo!


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