Teachers seldom are recognized publicly for their impact on young lives. Our rewards usually come when we see former students become productive, contributing members of society. Rarely do we get to "see" the impact we have had. As most teachers continue to excel in spite of the increasing pressure of the No Child Left Behind law, assessment scores and budget crunches, it is more important than ever to recognize effective educators.
I think that's what the "Live! With Regis and Kelly" TV show had in mind with its first "Top Teacher Week."
I had no idea the Walker family nominated me and was absolutely shocked to hear I had been chosen, first as a top 10 semifinalist and then as one of five finalists from across the country.
My wife, Donna, and I were flown to New York City, put up in a fancy hotel in Times Square, and sent to a Broadway show. I also joined Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa onstage during their live TV show.
The trip was a dreamlike blur. Never in my 31 years of teaching would I have imagined such a thing.
The day for my show came, and our limo took us right into the back entrance to the studio. We were rushed into the greenroom, where several producers were grabbing bagels and giving me instructions. After a quick trip to makeup, I was guided backstage to wait for my turn.
Miss USA finished her segment, and as she was coming off the set during the commercial break backstage, I asked her if she would let me hold her crown. She said, "I'll do something better. How about if I crown you with it?" —which she proceeded to do with the sweetest of smiles.
Before I knew it, they were showing a video they made of me and motioning me onstage. I shook Regis' hand and saw Kelly coming at me with this flirty look on her face.
They had filmed me singing a song that included a line about getting a kiss from Kelly, but I sure didn't expect that to happen. I had no idea Kelly had asked Donna during a commercial break if she could give me a kiss (how sweet). When she came over, put her hands on my face and kissed my cheek, my mind sort of melted for a moment.
Did that just happen? And 10 million people saw it?
As quickly as it started, it ended, and later that night we were back home in Benton. Thanks so much to all who took the time to vote for me and send congratulations.
To all my students, both past and present: This whole thing happened because of you.
To the Walker family: Wow. You made it possible for my wife and me to have a trip of 10 lifetimes.
I'm humbled to represent great teachers everywhere, especially my colleagues in the Circle school district, who inspire and challenge me every day.