NNSTOY Unites the Tribe of Teacher Leaders from Coast to Coast
Posted: Dec 9, 2016
By Rebecca Mieliwocki and Angie Miller
We all know the importance of building relationships in the classroom--when our students can trust, laugh, question, and explore, they learn more about the content, their world, and themselves. But how often do we think about the importance of relationships in our professional development? Nurturing the kinds of relationships that grow through NNSTOY are important to our professional souls. Two teachers, from two different years, from two opposite coasts, discovered that the unexpected connection that only blooms from an NNSTOY event changed and supported them as educators.
I’ve taught A Midsummer Night’s Dream for many years now, but it wasn’t until I met Angie Miller (New Hampshire 2011) at the NNSTOY annual conference in Philadelphia that I came to know the living, breathing embodiment of Shakespeare’s famous line, “Though she be little, she is fierce.” Quick to laugh, unapologetically imperfect, and wildly, wonderfully smart, Angie’s quest to teach kids how to harness the power of information to make the world a kinder, better place is infectious. Fast friends from the start, critical friends and thought partners ever since, Angie’s mighty passion for kids, teachers, literacy and for doing the right thing ignites within me a continued zeal to advocate for our profession and for those of us who work so hard to grow great kids, schools, and communities. I would never have crossed paths with Angie had I not attended our annual event. Over the years and across the miles, Angie is one among many STOYs who have helped me in countless ways from understanding education policy implications, to inspiring curriculum choices, to helping me come down off the ledge to work through the pitfalls and perils of being a teacher leader. She is one of many, many amazing NNSTOY educators who help me be the best me I can be.
As I fell into a comfortable stride and conversation the first time I met Rebecca Mieliwocki, our 2012 NTOY from California, I recognized immediately a friend whom I would walk with again. Her instincts for empowering educators and her willingness to venture to new frontiers and grapple with unexpected challenges supports her fundamental belief that the humbling and hard work we do in our schools every day is the most important endeavor in the galaxy. She is a force that instills optimism, hope, and confidence--anyone lucky enough to be in Rebecca’s circle is lucky enough. We have walked through cities and along the coasts together since that first introduction, pontificating over policy, procedure, and philosophy, irreverently laughing through serious intent. But even from far, far away, Rebecca’s power to inspire me and others to be greater than we are is undeniable. She celebrates our successes before we know they exist, and when we feel like an utter failure at life and teaching, Rebecca is there to remind us that it is patience we must have. This is what it is like to have an NNSTOY educator as a friend, a colleague, a mentor: it’s a powerful force that stays with us, and I am so grateful for all of my NNSTOY friends who have challenged me to be better at everything.
In our year of recognition, we all form bonds with our STOY cohorts that often last a lifetime, but membership in NNSTOY expands that network exponentially to include teacher leaders from every year and every state. Through NNSTOY, we build an extended family--a network of spectacular connections that grows and challenges us in unique and powerful ways every single day. You simply cannot participate in an NNSTOY event and not come away with important new relationships forged in the fire of passion, enthusiasm, and exceptional commitment to our craft. It is this network that will guide, drive, and sustain the important work of educators for generations to come.
Rebecca Mieliwocki is the 2012 National Teacher of the Year and a member of the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY). A 20-year veteran English teacher, Mieliwocki is currently on special assignment for her Burbank, California, district.
Angie Miller is the 2011 New Hampshire State Teacher of the Year and a member of NNSTOY. She is currently a middle and high school librarian at Inter-Lakes School District in Meredith, New Hampshire.