April 08, 2017

2017 Teacher of the Year: ‘We must use our collective teacher voice to advocate for students, schools’

Source: NYSUT Communications
hysick

Amy Hysick, the 2017 New York State Teacher of the Year, encouraged delegates to the NYSUT Representative Assembly to continue to “elevate the teaching profession and fight for equity in our schools.”

“I am proud to be a member of a union that supports us in our autonomy and encourages us to develop as individual professionals,” said Hysick, a Cicero-North Syracuse High School high school science teacher whose parents are NYSUT retiree members and former teachers in the same district.

Hysick is passionate about the teaching profession and supports new teachers through mentoring, because she remembers how difficult it was to be a new teacher.

Through constant adjustment of her teaching strategies, she embraces student individuality because, “Not everyone travels the same path, walks at the same speed or reaches the destination at the same time,” she told delegates.

Although she enjoyed watching her own “Teacher of the Year” video on the big screen, she said her favorite parts of movies are often the outtakes and deleted scenes where the audience gets to see how many times it takes to make one perfect “take.” In her science explorations and Regents living environment classes, Hysick offers her students the chance to retake assessments because she believes that assessments should be used to measure an increase in learning.

She encouraged delegates to embrace union solidarity, telling them: “Our students and our schools need strong advocates more than ever. We each have unique approaches to teaching, different passions in education — but our voices and our actions will carry more weight and grow in volume when we band together.”

Complete Remarks

It is an incredible honor to be here with you, and I would like to thank Catalina and my brothers and sisters at NYSUT for supporting me in my journey this year. Thank you to the Board of Regents for supporting teachers and continually working to improve education in our state. Thank you to the officers and members of my local North Syracuse Education Association, who work tirelessly on behalf of our staff and students. Thank you to the wonderful staff of my district -- administrators, teachers, counselors, custodial staff, teaching assistants, and paraprofessionals who have supported and encouraged me. I would not be able to go on this adventure without all of you. Thank you to my husband Chris, who is my biggest supporter and has held down the fort when I have been traveling hither and yon. And a giant thank you must go to my parents.

My parents, Jim and Judy Sonich, are both retired teachers from the North Syracuse Central School District. They both proudly taught in public schools -- with more than 30 years of service each. They taught in the district that helped to educate and shape me and my two sisters, the district in which I am now a proud science teacher, and the district that my sisters and I trust with the education of our children. My parents taught me what it means to stand up for that in which you believe and what union advocacy looks like. They were union members who contributed to the fight to secure the benefits that we enjoy, even taking to the picket line when it became necessary.

Watching the movie version of my classroom is a bit surreal! To experience your story through someone else’s lens is an amazing gift, and I have to sincerely thank Ann Marie, Leslie and the production crew for helping to beautifully show some of my adventures as an educator, and tell the story of my classroom.

But I have a confession to make: my favorite part of watching a movie is the outtakes and deleted scenes. I like learning about the story of making the movie, and catching glimpses of the actors in their more ‘human’ moments. I like knowing that they aren’t perfect, and that they are able to laugh at their mistakes.

My behind the scenes story is one of exploration and experimenting with different teaching strategies -- but not all of them work the first time out of the gate. My students get a front-row seat to the successes and the flops! They see tragedy, comedy, conflict and resolution -- all in one 80-minute block -- and there’s a repeat performance every day!

But there are hidden lessons for my students embedded in these experiences:

  1. Making mistakes is okay, and it’s part of how we learn.
  2. If you never stretch yourself and try anything new, you will never grow.
  3. Failure is not the end of the world.
  4. There is always a path to success, and GPS directions are available if you make a wrong turn.
  5. Not everyone travels the same path, walks at the same speed, or reaches the destination at the same time.
  6. Learning doesn’t really ‘end’ -- our journeys of discovery continue for the rest of our lives.
  7. We learn best when we learn together.

Students need interaction with caring teachers in order to learn and grow. But teachers need that as well. The sacred responsibility that we have as educators is to help guide and encourage the growth of the small humans who are entrusted to our care. That is much too large a job for one person -- and too weighty a responsibility to carry by ourselves.

The challenges we face as educators can be overcome only when everyone works together (and I do mean everyone). We are the professionals who know what our students need, and we must use our collective Teacher Voice to tell the stories of our students and our classrooms to those in power so that they know the impact of their decisions on our students and on our schools. We need to give them a picture of our kids and our colleagues, faces and names and individual stories that will help them better understand the effects of their policies.

I am proud to be a member of a union that supports us in our autonomy and encourages us to develop as individual professionals. But the source of our strength is our common purpose. Our students and our schools need strong advocates more than ever. We each have unique approaches to teaching, different passions in education -- but our voices and our actions will carry more weight and grow in volume when we band together to tell our stories. We need to elevate the teaching profession and fight for equity in our schools -- together. Create together, find solutions together, make mistakes and learn from them together -- use your Teacher Voice in concert with those around you to be a resounding, deafening call to action -- for our schools, our fellow teachers and for our students.

Thank you for placing your trust in me as the 2017 New York State Teacher of the Year.