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Thanks, But No Thanks


The news that Carleen Gulstad, Minnesota's 2008 Teacher of the Year, has relinguished the title for personal reasons has caused a minor uproar in the state and fueled some useless/idiotic speculation. But as a former state teacher of the year in Michigan, Nancy Flanagan has sympathy for Gulstad and guesses that her reasons for begging out might have something to do with curious nature of the TOY institution:

It’s totally not my business, either—but I’m guessing she took a hard look at the schedule set for her to meet the demands of her “honor,” then very gently and politely said no thanks. And that is certainly her right—and may turn out to be a good decision for her. ... It is generally a wonderful, enlightening experience, but it is often exhausting. Being a Teacher of the Year also involves a different skill set than being an excellent classroom practitioner, and represents the involuntary assumption of a new job for a year—a job for which you have no preparation.

Incidentally, Gulstad's counterpart in North Carolina, Cindi Rigsbee, recently wrote an article for Teacher about some of the qualms she felt about taking on her TOY position.

It does seem a little ironic that states officially recognize the extraordinary dedication and talent of these educators and then voluntarily remove them from the classroom for a year.


Could it be that she felt conflicted about vouching for a failed system of education she had to strugle to make work.


I am going to respond to your question as if you were not posing it rhetorically. Of course, we don't know what Carleen Gulstad was thinking when she chose to relinquish the responsibility of being Minnesota Teacher of the Year--but given her obvious joy and clear success in teaching 8th graders in Hopkins, MN, it seems doubtful that she was having a crisis of conscience about the "failed" educational system.

I have taught for 30 years. All good teachers struggle to find the optimum balance of philosophy and action in a large, complex system--but it's a good challenge, one most of us are willing to take, knowing that we're supporting a world-class idea: a free, high-quality public education for every child.

In my experience, the phrase "failed system of education" is usually the first rhetorical signal that someone is trying to sell you something.

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