Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Stars Aligned

Last week I was asked what my greatest teaching moment has been in my career thus far. You would think that after 21 years I would need to really think about it. Twenty-one years of students in urban and rural settings. Twenty-one years of students ranging from second graders to fifth. So many years of learning. So many fun projects. But I didn't really need to think about it. Not that long anyway. Because there was this one school year, where all the stars seemed aligned, and my proudest moment came from a little seed I planted, and the fourth graders I had nurtured it into a tree.

It was the fall of 2011. My students were participating in Disney's Planet Challenge, an environmental contest. I knew I wanted my students to run a 5K but that was about it. So one fall afternoon I pulled up a list of road races on a local website. As I was scrolling through, one race caught our eye: Aubrey's Butterfly 5K for EB. Immediately the questions came: Who is Aubrey and what is EB? So we delved deeper. Aubrey was a little girl who died at the young age of  six weeks from EB. And EB stands for Epidermolysis Bullosa, a genetic condition that causes the skin to be extremely fragile and blister easily.

This little girl sparked motivation in everyone. Over the course of the next seven months, my students  achieved more than I could ever have imagined.


  • trained for a 5K (during the school day with me)
  • educated themselves on the importance of being healthy
  • raised and donated $550 to finding a cure for EB
  • drank more water
  • wrote a grant (and received it) for pedometers and water bottles
  • learned about the effects of plastic and the importance of recycling after watching a video about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
  • created posters to encourage people to recycle
  • learned the names of the seven different types of plastic and what they can be recycled into
  • wrote and published a digital story called Plastic: Things You May Not Know
  • held an assembly for the school to teach them about recycling and plastic
  • gave out donated usable water bottles to all students in the school
  • built a compost bin to experiment with the decomposing of bananas using various types of material
  • ran a 5K and gave away reusable water bottles in hopes there would be less plastic in the world
  • gathered data at the race about single use plastic 
  • illustrated and wrote a children's book called The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
  • held a book signing and sale of their book at the local library and sold out
  • raised and donated over $700 to the Plastic Pollution Coalition
  • started a recycling center at the school for families 

I appreciated being asked that question, because above anything else, it allowed me to reflect on all I have done as a teacher. Teachers do so much more than just teach. We show the future what they are capable of through the lessons that are learned in our classrooms. 

A poster of our published book