Allow me to introduce a fantastic teacher: Mark Kane, who rocks 1st grade at McKinley Elementary. This is Mark's fourth year in Billings Public Schools, having taught for a year in Laurel prior to that. I first met Mark on October 21, 2009, back when he was a substitute teacher. You might find it weird that I remember that . . . and let me say that it would be, were it not for my Google Calendar. At the time, it was my second year really digging into technology integration, so I remember a lot (mostly because I have it all documented - thank you, Google!). I was a participant in the TILT staff development program, which entails 6 full days of Professional Leave, and therefore 6 full days of who-knows-what back at "home" in my classroom. The first day Mark was there, I knew I had stumbled into a 2nd-year-of-TILT-with-6-days-of-leave gold mine. Always a little nervous to return to school in the wake of a sub, I actually drove back to my building at the end of that day to see the damage I would have to repair the next day. I was ever so pleasantly surprised to find a very detailed, professionally written note, attached to which was a plain and simple business card advertising the guest teaching services of Mark Kane. Knowing I would need at least 5 more days of this kind of goodness, I contacted him right away. He kindly agreed to several more of the opportunities (to work with one of the best classes I've ever had), but informed me that he would be student teaching that spring, and would therefore be unavailable for the last several days. Glad for the expert help, I booked those days, plus a few bonus ones in between.
Never having actually met this person, I was glad to get the chance when Mark covered my class one November afternoon. I had signed up to present at *GASP* - an afternoon High School Google training (and yes, it was every bit as terrifying as I dreamed it would be). When the lunch hour came and it was time for me to pack up and head out to Skyview High School, Mark walked in for the start of his afternoon shift. We exchanged polite conversation, and he asked if it would be possible for him to come in and work/observe/team teach in my classroom for a week. YES, YES, absolutely YES. He was getting ready to student teach, after all, and I was getting ready to have my first student teacher that next year, and I couldn't see how this wouldn't be a win-win situation.
Needless to say, I was very impressed with Mark. What made him so different from any other sub I'd had (or any other student teacher I have ever had!) was his level of professionalism. There was no doubt that he was in it for the real thing - to teach students. Even as a volunteer, he never hesitated to go and sit with a student, to help my struggling mathematicians with a problem, to read with a group, or walk around and actually learn something from the class. He taught a terrific social studies lesson in which he integrated technology like a pro (I believe it was TagGalaxy, to make the memory even weirder . . . ), and he even asked for feedback! Whoa. A newbie teacher who didn't already know everything?! Utter wackiness.
Among the fun parts of all of this was befriending the entire Kane family. It turns out that Mark's wife, Sara, was also in college, learning to "become" a teacher (note how I make fun of myself there, because neither of the Kanes needed to "become" teachers - they already were by instinct). I was fortunate to have Sara as a Junior Field student that following year. She, too, is a fabulous first grade teacher in Billings Public Schools, and for that, we are all so lucky!
And so, it gives me great pleasure to brag on this guy. What he has done for learners in his short time with Billings Public Schools has been astounding; and these learners aren't all of the first-grade nature. Mark himself applied and was accepted into TILT; he took on the responsibilities and commitments of a much more experienced teacher; he joined committees, he made presentations, he travelled . . . he put himself out there for others, and believe me others have learned! Both with and from Mark, other teachers have learned to put themselves out there, to take risks, and to take learning (and teaching) by its professional horns. Cool guy, amazing teacher. Thanks, Mark!
I am a proud teacher in Billings Public Schools, home to over 16,000 students and 3,500 staff members. Students in Billings are creating and collaborating like never before thanks to the technology to which they have access, and their teachers are providing them with opportunities that will make them incredible community leaders one day soon!