I walk into the Cohen Auditorium at Tufts. The mood is subdued but excited, expectant. In a few minutes, the ceremony will begin:
I am here today to celebrate one of the two students I sponsored in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards this year, Sam. (The other was honored at an identical ceremony that took place two hours earlier, as they schedule four different ceremony times due to space limitations.)
I have brought my family with me, because today is a big deal. Not only did Sam win a number of regional awards, but he received one of the most prestigious national awards, as well, a Gold Medal for his writing portfolio. In June, I will spend a couple of days in New York City attending the national ceremony at Carnegie Hall and other exciting events.
But today is the first step. As we sit there, the screen shows the art and portraits of past winners. “Make way for ducklings!” K calls out when Robert McLusky’s art appears. “Peter!” he giggles when Ezra Jack Keats’ famous character is shown.
Then the lights dim and there is a fancy produced video featuring a past winner who became a professional artist, author Junot Diaz, and staff from the Boston Globe and Tufts, who help sponsor the regional part of the competition. They discuss the role of art and congratulate the winners and their families; then, when they begin to thank the teachers, I start to lose it.
This is every teacher’s dream: to mentor, to support, to build relationships, to see their students soar.
(Luckily, I had the foresight to put a small packet of tissues in my purse for today.)
After a few speakers, it’s time to announce the present winners. Of the 46 students from my school who won regional awards, only 3 are in in attendance at this particular ceremony, but there’s only one who matters to me right now.
After the ceremony, we find our way over to Sam and his parents. There are hugs, laughs, and lots of exchanged compliments. We talk about how exciting it will be to go to New York in June.
Before we leave, I seek out one of the program organizers. They had a small gift for teachers, she said:
But I’ve already received the best gift of all – helping a student uncover his voice and realize his potential. There is nothing better than that.