I'm beginning to realize why this is a blog challenge. Not only the challenge of squeezing in time to create thoughtful writing every day, but also the challenge of confronting certain questions I'd never thought in-depth about (or ones I'd prefer not to answer). Today's question left me wondering where to begin.
I know colleague could qualify many different people, not just those I work with directly, but other people I've met in the teaching profession through various experiences. But I want this to focus on someone I know well and work with on a regular basis, so I'm narrowing the scope down to only people in my building. Inspirational is also somewhat of a loaded word for me. There are people I look up to and respect immensely, but I tend to turn to professional literature and "experts" for inspiration. So the colleague I'm choosing as inspirational is someone I respect and look up to, if not completely basking in the glow of inspiration.
Margaret is our middle school counselor. Never mind that she's a counselor at the middle level; the madness she has to deal with on a daily basis is jaw-dropping, and counseling is just a fraction of what she does. Since we're a small school, she also has to teach exploratory classes for all three grade levels. In addition to that, she runs and single-handedly maintains one of the best student organizations I've ever seen: Peer Helper.
Peer Helper is an extracurricular group focused on volunteerism and making the community a better place. Students sign a contract and log hours volunteering at home, school, and in our small town (they are required to do projects for all three areas of community). They sponsor all school dances. They raise money through various activities during the school year. They host Senior Citizens night at our school each April, where all the elderly from area communities come to enjoy a night of fun, food, games, and presentations at our school. And then, in June of every year, Margaret takes the Peer Helper kids who have fulfilled their contracts up to Minnesota. They volunteer for a day at Mary's Place shelter and donate all of the money they've earned throughout the school year to the homeless. (The next day they enjoy a much-deserved trip to Valley Fair.)
I can't even imagine how much work Margaret puts in outside of school hours in order to teach our kids how to be caring, compassionate members of their community. This might be one of the most important skills our students learn during middle school. She is an inspiration for the work she does in order to provide these opportunities, but also because she doesn't ask for any credit. She doesn't brag or boast about all of the things she does for these kids and our community, and often the school as a whole (or administration) gets credit for things she has done single-handedly. It's amazing, and it qualifies her as my inspiration at school.
I teach 7th and 8th grade English in rural Iowa and hope to reflect, connect, and share with other English teachers. Iowa Council of Teachers of English Executive Board member. Iowa Writing Project superfan. UNI MA:TESS graduate.