Departing With Gratitude

In August of 2012, I was holding my daughter at home for the first time. My cell phone buzzed. I ignored it. I was deep in the moment of fatherhood. A moment when priorities are appropriately aligned. I knew what was most important, my daughter. She needed me. Not as much as she needed by wife, but nonetheless, she needed her father. After several jolts, my mind started to talk to heart. The number was unknown. What if it were someone or something important.


“Hi, may I please speak with Michael?”

“This is he.” What I remember of that day was going into a blur for the next hour or so. I had been home for a short time. My hospital legs and eyes were still with me. The adrenaline was fading. The permanence of this beautiful baby girl seemed to be settling in.

“This is Kathy K____ from Green Bay Area Public Schools.”

“Ok.” I had interviewed for an incredible position, but coming off of new baby experience, the interview in Green Bay seemed as if it happened months ago, rather than weeks ago.

“I’m calling today to offer you the job of Advisor at John Dewey Academy of Learning.”

“Oh. May I call you back?”

This was August. I had already accepted a job, after already accepting a job. Due to complexities associated with selling our house in Appleton, I could not begin my new job in Edgerton. I was fortunate to acquire a position at Fond du Lac High School. This position also included coach basketball in the boys’ program with a phenomenal coach. While holding my new baby girl, I tracked down my wife and told her about the phone call. She said, “Do you want it?” There wasn’t really a second thought. To work in student-directed Project-Based Learning (PBL) school is a dream of mine. To work at John Dewey Academy of Learning was an opportunity I could not pass up. The school was beginning its second year, and had a very good reputation from my network.

I called back the individual from Green Bay.

I accepted the job.

Fond du Lac was more than gracious, each and every person I came in contact with wished me the best of luck. Each and every person in the entire organization epitomized class.

My first experience with meeting the John Dewey Academy of Learning (JDAL) staff came at a staff retreat. We met in Door County. For two days in late August, magic happened. I have never bonded with a team so quickly. Ashley, Lee, Lindsay, Mike, and Molly; each played such an important part in my life over the past year. In a small school, colleagues become a part of a persons life. And I am grateful for having each of those educators a part of mine.

I could go on talk in great depth about each of these people, but that would make this a 5000 word post.

In a place and a year when forced testing results were trialed, translated to a complex percentage, and then equated to a letter grade, I found my calling.

In a place and a year when vouchers swept across the state with fury, and the District where I found myself teaching was put right in the crosshairs, I tuned out political dialog.

I blogged less.

I worked after 5pm much less.

And I coached much much less.

I lost fifty five pounds.

I started waking up at 4:45am to run, make breakfast, get right spiritually, and develop lesson plans.

All of this was given to me. I was provided with several gifts. Although I am trying to figure out the work-home-self balance more, this year brought incredible opportunities. Perhaps the greatest gift is this: I love teaching. I have found my vocation.  

Finally, working in Green Bay has made me less judgmental of urban ed. Some of the greatest people I have ever met in the education profession, I met this year at the Green Bay Area Public Schools. Committed and intelligent school board members, brilliant and fair administrators, dedicated and knowledgeable teachers. The next time I hear of a “failing” school or the next time I think I know what it’s like in any organization, I hope I remember the incredible people I met in Green Bay, Wisconsin from August 22, 2012 – June 10, 2013.  I saw measurable growth this year in a small school within a large District, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of that growth. No matter how small a part, there was not a day when I left work when I didn’t fell I had served. My only regret is not saying “Thank you”  more. In my life, the greatest area of measurable growth from last August until right now has to do with my buzzing phone. When I walk through the door tonight, it will be turned OFF. It will remain so until both of my girls are asleep. I might miss a few tweets. My inbox may get larger than “2”, but today I know what is important. And I have Green Bay to thank for that.

About Michael

Do Work!
This entry was posted in Charter School, Radical School Design, Reflection, Year End Analysis. Bookmark the permalink.

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