"L is for loving what you do." I believe in this. Anyone who knows me personally, knows that I love what I do. I put my heart and soul into my practice and do my best to give my kids what they need to be successful.
One of those opportunities this year has been through participating with the Heart of a Hall of Famer program. The program was initially brought to my attention by my husband and one of the PR directors at Banner Health. As he got to know the people at his new job, it came up that I am a teacher and it was suggested that I look into this program for my students. I was connected with Mrs. McDaniel and encouraged to proceed with signing up.
Initially this program is geared towards 4th grade and up, although, Mrs. Daniel supported my vision to allow my students to see that they matter, their character matters, and that the values honored by the Hall of Fame would support them, despite the challenges they face in their community. My third graders were welcomed with open arms and we participated in a live Q&A with Mr. Randall McDaniel in October.
You gotta love our webcam set up! Talk about innovation. We needed the webcam, from my laptop, at the front of the room, so this was what we came up with.
I believe we were among seven schools participating in this chat and were able to ask about five questions. Mr. McDaniel commented that our students had very good questions that "made him think." Kids love to make grown-ups think and enjoyed the hour long conversation! They walked a little bit taller that day knowing they had spoke to a "real-life football player." They were in awe that Mr. McDaniel now spends his time as a teacher and wished they could attend his school.
Of course in the days of social media, I couldn't miss the opportunity for a selfie. We had a hall of fame football hero as a guest in our room, how could I not get a selfie? Mr. McDaniel wasn't quite ready for the camera, but I snapped a shot anyway.
On a serious note, it was an experience my kids needed. Often children put athletes on a pedestal, which is respected and deserved. They are amazing athletes and show dedication to a sport that requires them to give so much of themselves physically and mentally.
What I admire most about the Heart of a Hall of Famer program, is that while honoring these men, they are also honoring and speaking to the values they have. The Gold Jacket Standards of Character are commitment, integrity, courage, respect, and excellence. Most importantly, they not only focus on what it takes to be successful on the field, but off the field as well. That is the key for my students. They realize now that no matter how famous athletes may be, they are still people like us and they have to make decisions like we do that reflect our character.
Mr. McDaniel's message was inspiring. He focused on making education a priority, encouraged helping others, and working through challenging opportunities. They learned that school was hard for him, too, and how to deal with criticism from others. These were important lessons to many of the kids in my class. Mr. McDaniel is also an ASU alum and we gave him a proper Sun Devils shout out...
"Go Sun Devils!!!!" (Those are pitchforks, in case you can't tell.)
To our surprise, Mrs. McDaniel reached out to inform us that Mr. McDaniel would be in town and would like to meet our class! Can you imagine our excitement?! The kids couldn't believe that they were going to be given a chance to hang out with him, in our very own classroom! So, we started to plan his visit. Nothing fancy, but we wanted to make sure he felt welcome.
I got a real selfie and he was ready for the camera :-)
The kids were able to ask more of the important questions they didn't get to ask in October, like, "Do you like McDonalds?" By the way, yes he does!
They were able to try on his Hall of Fame rings...
and compare hand sizes!
The best part for them was receiving a personalized autograph and a individual photo with him.
We presented Mr. McDaniel with a digital story, G is for Gold Jacket Standards. After participating in the Heart of a Hall of Famer program, we wanted to create this book to highlight all of the things we learned, A to Z, from Mr. McDaniel.
It truly was an experience we will never forget and it was the "best day ever!"
I am forever grateful to Mr. and Mrs. McDaniel for extending their kindness to my kids. Taking the time to visit was never part of the plan, but they have made a difference.
Thank you, both, for showing my kids that they matter.