It's that time of the year when each school is asked to name their teacher of the year. Such a designation is the first step along the path that ends at being the national teacher of the year for someone. In our district, I have the impression that every school has a different process, although since I have spent my entire career at one school, that's only hearsay.
At our school, the process is flawed at best. We are all invited to nominate a colleague in a hundred words or less, and then we vote. There is absolutely no criteria provided other than three years of experience. Considering that most teachers are too busy planning and delivering their own instruction to really know what's happening in any other classroom, it's hard to view the voting as anything other than uninformed at best.
I admit though, that, despite my misgivings about the process, I was flattered by the honor when a few years ago I was named teacher of the year at my school. The next step was to submit my credentials for consideration as a candidate for our county-wide teacher of the year. At the time, I had thirteen years of classroom experience, as well as involvement in a host of other activities, including coaching, team leader, and curriculum development, and yet, as I looked over my application, I felt that it was lacking.
Whether or not my opinion was based on insecurity or fact, as a result of those perceived deficits I took two steps: First, I decided to become a candidate for National Board Certification, and secondly I applied for and was accepted to the local chapter of the National Writing Project's Summer Institute.
I was not named teacher of the year for the district, but ultimately the experiences of the Writing Project and the National Board process both reshaped my teaching and undoubtedly, I'm a much better educator because of them.