Once when Kristie worked at an insurance agency in Red Lake Falls, her boss, Jim, asked me how work was.
I responded with, "I have the greatest job in the world" without even thinking about it.
I didn't realize what I had said until Jim said, "Huh. I wonder how many people can say that about their work?"
It was at that time that I realized - at least consciously - just how blessed I was to be able to teach.
I often hear, "Well, if I taught the kids you get to teach, I'd love my job as much as you too."
I'm not saying that isn't true, for I am fortunate enough to teach our very best students. And those students are absolutely amazing.
And for awhile I thought that was the real reason I loved teaching so much. Then I was visiting with some of the very first students I ever taught. They drove me nuts. Yet, as I was laughing with them about our struggles together (I, as a first year teacher, and they, as sophomores), I realized just how much I enjoyed teaching them. Then I reflected on the remedial reading classes I teach, not to mention the summer classes I teach. And I love those too.
Don't get me wrong, it's not a fantasy world where every day is a scene out of Dead Poet's Society something. There are struggles every single day. Even with my college in the high school classes. There is just something I love about being with and working with and trying to teach young people.
So when I was fortunate enough to be nominated for a WEM award by Cierra, a former student of mine, I went through the process of applying for it two years ago. This required several essays on various topics and several letters of recommendation.
Last May I found out I was one of three who finished as a runner-up. Leah, the representative from the WEM foundation who contacted me, informed me that as a runner-up, I was eligible for the award again next year. I just had to write more essays and get more letters of recommendation.
I hadn't heard anything, though winners were announced in March/April. I figured I didn't make the cut, and I went on with teaching.
Then Tuesday happened, and it changed my life.
First, Mr. Brekke asked me if I could meet with him on Tuesday morning at 7:25 about taking over as president of our local pool. I was happy to do so, and we had a great visit.
Then as I was walking out of Mr. Brekke's office, Mr. Zutz called me into his office. "I have a principal visiting from another school. Do you mind if we stop by first block?"
"No," I said. I love when other people visit my classroom. I'm always eager to show off what my kids are doing.
The problem: I thought of a new activity to try on my way to school that morning. I had to put it together by the start of first block, and it was 7:40!
I flew to my room and began putting the project together (my CC 2 students are reading Talk Like TED by Carmine Gallo and preparing to give their own mock-TED Talks in a week. I wanted them to have more speaking experience, so I thought I'd create Keynotes of 16 slides featuring just images or videos. Each slideshow would be based on a broad topic - "Pets," "Sports," "Cars" and so on. I'd divide the class into groups of four with each student responsible for talking about 4 different slides for 20 seconds each).
I finished the slideshows just as the two minute bell sounded.
Then we began class, and I forgot all about Mr. Zutz and the visiting principal stopping in.
In fact, I was totally caught up in how funny the kids were and how much they were enjoying the assignment when there was a knock on my door. It was Mr. Zutz and the visiting principal with Mr. Brekke.
I didn't give it much thought as I turned my attention back to my students as they spoke about each slide for 20 seconds.
Then Shane said, "Kurt, she has some students with her. Do you mind if they come in too?"
"Not at all," I said.
When Shane opened the door, my family and past students walked in.
Those aren't her students, I thought. That's my family and my former students!
I had no idea until I saw Cash and Kenz with blue and gold balloons and Koko's boyfriend, Cody, with a sign that read "Congrats." When I saw my sister and her family and even my step-son (who lives in South Dakota) and my nephew (who is going to school in Indiana), I knew I must have won.
I just never thought it would happen like that.
To say I was surprised and blow away would be a massive understatement.
Then Cooper, one of my many, many amazing students, smirked and hooked his computer up to my project and began the following video.
I struggled not to cry. It was overwhelming. The real reason I have any success, though, is because of students like the follow two:
And because of my colleagues, administration, and the community of parents and businesses that have been so supportive of the #prowlerway.
There are so many people to thank. First and foremost, Kristie, my amazing wife. She worked so hard to get the surprise lined up. I truly had no idea what was going on. She contacted everyone to shoot a short video clip for this video. I was so shocked. I can never thank her enough. And this is just one of the million reasons Kristie is so amazing and my very best friend.
Then there are the parents, community members, colleagues, students, and administrators who wrote me letters of recommendations for this award. Thank you so, so much.
I also have to thank Cooper and KoKo who helped Kristie organize everyone for the video.
I have to thank Shane for reaching out to Kristie and being so supportive.
I have to thank my colleagues who, along with the students, make me truly love every single day of the school year. You challenge me, inspire me, and offer so much support.
And I have to thank the parents too. It's a shame I only really get a chance to thank them properly at graduation and grad parties. Your support is so vital.
Thank you all.