Saturday, January 16, 2010

Golden Apple Awards--Airs Feb. 25th on KCTS

Well, last night we taped the Golden Apple Awards at the Intiman Theatre in Seattle. This was the 18th year that Pemco Insurance and KCTS-TV have jointly honored exceptional educators and educational programs throughout Washington State. I was asked to be the Associate Producer by my friend Josephine who is the main show producer. The winners are chosen by a panel of people who know excellence when it comes to teaching. I was also lucky enough to be chosen to produce profiles of two of the recipients. I was so awestruck by these two women and what they are able to do in a single school day. Ann Smith teaches gifted fifth graders in Vancouver Washington. She has a great principal and apparently a great school district that supports her efforts. You might think that gifted kids are easy students and in some ways that is probably true but in other ways they are not always the most socially adept kids for whatever reasons. Ann Smith's kids were presenting a Renaissance Faire when I was there. They made their costumes. Ann had assigned them identities and they had to research their occupations and come up with ideas of things they could make and sell in their marketplace. She had them prepare a feast that consisted of at least five different dishes. We got there and they set up, started their preparations and with the help of some great moms they put together quite a lot of food. Then, they had younger students come through while each explained his or her occupation and what that meant. They sang, they danced and they gave speeches...all in character. Now, mind you, this was all before lunch! Lunch by the way was YUMMO! Then, they read, wrote, answered questions, played an ancient game of checkers. I wish I could have done a half hour documentary on this class of kids... who also by the way, go to the nearby creek once a month to monitor the water quality, temperature, flow, etc. They present their findings to adult professionals and college level educators later in the year. My second teacher profile was of a beautiful petite Vietnamese woman who teaches in South Seattle. She teaches kindergarten students many of whom are ESL kids. We visited them on the 59th day of classes. Most of these children did not know their alphabet when they started this school year. She has them reading, journaling, doing math problems and so many other high-level tasks. I was blown away by these little five year olds. I asked if it was a gifted class and she said "no, just regular kids." Well, they are not regular kids and Huyen Lam is not a regular teacher. She has a business degree and had opened her own retail establishment. She figured out fairly quickly that she wasn't cut out for some of the behind the scenes dealings involved with her trade. In the meantime, several neighborhood kids had come in to visit with her and ended up asking for help with schoolwork. The light dawned and she knew that she wanted to make a difference and to try to fix flaws in the education system...her first thought was that giving the students a strong foundation as young as possible was the way to go. That is what she does. She does not coddle the kids and just expect them to play and get used to learning. She pushes them to want to learn. I loved it when she chose a boy to lead the class during math time. (each week a different child is chosen to lead this part of their day)...In addition to math they figured out what day it was, how many days they had been in school, what month, day of the week, etc. This little boy was so confident and sure of himself---it was so empowering for him. All of the students participated and got so enthusiastic about learning. The whole day was one jaw dropping task after another. I was humbled by the amazing way both of these beautiful bright strong women molded their students right before my eyes. Teachers deserve so much more recognition than they receive. That old cliche about kids being our future is true and we should all be thankful for people who chose to dedicate their lives to making sure that all kids not just their own are given the tools to create the future. Thank you Huyen, Ann and all the rest of the teachers who work so hard for so little thanks and compensation.

The program will air on PBS stations throughout the state. FEB. 25 @ 7pm on KCTS 9 Seattle and KYVE 47 in Yakima. FEB. 27th on KWSU in Pullman @ 10pm and on Marcy 5th @ 9pm. FEB. 28th at 1:00pm KSPS in Spokane. March 4th @ 10:00pm on KTNW in the Tri-Cities.

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