A Lifelong Yearning Answered

May 8, 2013
Lydia Dobyns

Lydia Dobyns

I shrieked and was glad that I was not driving. My husband’s eardrums have nearly recovered. You know how the visualization suggestion goes: Dream big dreams and watch what happens. The phone call that caused me to scream confirmed that the president—THE President—was going to visit one of our schools. That was a shriek-worthy moment in itself. But then the real miracle happened the voice on the phone said “and we want you to be there. “

It is hard to put into words the sense of wonder and privilege I am feeling about meeting the President of the United States. I fervently believe in the power of democracy and in active citizenship—I worked on my first presidential campaign while in high school, before I could vote. I served two terms as an elected school board member in my community. While I despair about the state of politics today, I have not given up hope that we will find our way back to more effective governance.

I have dreamed my whole life about being seen for my work; being able to amplify my passionate desire to provide access to education that prepares all children to realize their potential. Many other people also share this dream so I know that I am “lucky” to be in this place at this time and able to showcase our work. The President will visit one of the exemplary schools in New Tech Network: Manor New Technology High School.

My father was born in Germany, while he was a young boy his family was displaced during World War II. He grew up a citizen of no country and became an American citizen while in his 20’s. He instilled in me a sense of responsibility and reverence for the principles of our country.

He is proud of my work and we are both more than a little humbled by the luck he found in his life to be able to adopt this country and the good fortune I have to be doing work I love.

This was an invitation earned– less by me personally and more by the thousands of New Tech teachers who have committed themselves to a new vision for teaching and learning. This tremendous effort by teachers and principals is so much more than learning new classroom practices or adopting technology. We’re talking about fundamentally changing the way teachers teach and students learn. These dedicated professionals have been doing the hard messy work of reinventing the high school experience.  It takes persistence, vision and creativity day in and day out, year after year. They did not achieve this remarkable success on their own or overnight.

I give thanks to their dedication. They remind district leaders and school board members that we do not need to wait for answers or federal or state funding to make changes now based on proven practices.  Right now in rural, suburban and urban communities all over this country there are more than 100 innovative schools that help students learn how to learn, how to develop personal agency and acquire the skills they need to succeed in college and the workforce.

I love that this is Teacher Appreciation Week. Perfectly poetic! Now it’s time to ponder my wardrobe choices. I get to meet the President!