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A Note From Tysha Vulcain: "Program is the Heart of NAATE"
October 3, 2017

The heart of NAATE is program. Program is the time when we see the fruits of our labor, the time when we can take joy in seeing how all of the different roles that we play blend together, allowing everything to run smoothly. Everything we do - all of the different hats we wear, calendars we make, and emails that we send - all of it comes from the desire to run a successful program. In my eyes, a successful program means that our teachers are able to engage in meaningful dialogues with colleagues from across the country, learning lessons, strategies, and thought patterns that they can take back to their school communities. A successful program means that our teachers feel supported by both their fellow cohort members and NAATE staff, so that they can have difficult conversations and push their own thinking. A successful program means that teachers can engage in everything NAATE has to offer, without ever having to worry about all of the details that we spend months arranging.

I joined NAATE just in time to learn in action with our June programs. For July, I’d be hitting the ground running. NAATE’s program team buzzed with excitement and anxiety during those early summer weeks, as we got ready to welcome our largest group, Cohort XI, with a staggering 96 teacher fellows!

Our July programs are ten days each, giving teachers time to really sink in to NAATE. The first few days were a transition for NAATE’s newest cohort of teachers. They were learning the best ways to prep for cases, getting acquainted with their small groups, and mastering what it meant to be a good participant of a case study. Many teachers didn’t know what to expect from NAATE’s program: Additional readings everyday, spontaneous public speaking tasks, and fun filled evening events, kept the program schedule packed. Teachers quickly learned that NAATE would not only give them the tools they needed to be better teachers and leaders, but also allow them to truly enjoy being in an environment with other educators from vastly different backgrounds and experiences.

By the end of program, it was easy to feel exhausted. Ten days of an intensive, in-residence work is tiring for both NAATE’s teachers and staff members. But, when I sat in on a case and saw the same teacher that was voguing the night before at the cohort reception, now in the case study room hand up confidently, wide eyed and eager to share about the readings, it reminded me of the importance of program.

Yes, program is an intensely rigorous intellectual experience, and so much of the learning takes place inside the case study classroom. But program is also about what happens outside of the cases. During July program, I sat at a table and ate pizza with two teachers, one with four years of classroom teaching experience and another with seventeen, and discussed how exposure to technology has changed in schools. I shared a glass of wine with another teacher and talked about what it meant for black and brown children to have positive role models that look like them. I went rock climbing for my first time and was encouraged to get over my fear of heights by a group of people I had only known for a few days. These were just some of the things going on outside of the case study rooms, some of the things that made this summer truly memorable.

Program is a packed schedule and can be tiring. But, more importantly, it is reaffirming and engaging. I left program feeling energized and encouraged because of the motivation that such a diverse group of people showcased. The experience of program is the same for no two people. Program is enlightening for me as staff, so I can only imagine the long-term impact it has on our teacher fellows. I can’t wait to see what experiences teacher fellows will have for our fall program and all they will learn that they can take back to their schools.

- Tysha Vulcain, Manager of Program Operations

(edited by Meredith McAndrew, Manager of Programs and Partnerships)

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