My sister and I grew up with a school administrator and a teacher of many things as our parents. They instilled care for those who guide and teach, the value found in the easiest or most difficult of lessons and the importance of learning being applicable, practical and fun.
Years later in 2001 as an educator from Oklahoma, I gathered with educators from around North America. Our team prepared to spend the summer serving Chinese English teachers in China. Each summer one week before North American teams left to teach in Asia, the organization sending us poured team building and training into us to prepare us for our time serving together overseas. Sherene McHenry crossed my path there. A few years ahead of me she had offered her summers to teach English, and by the time we met she'd created a foundation for teams headed to Asia to shine strong and bright during their 6-8 weeks together. She guided us in practical ways for how to thrive as creative, strong, well-rounded, imperfect teams going to a foreign country to serve and grow.
For an hour or so each day during training we practiced monitoring our daily energy level, checking our own and our teammates’. We grew our ability to recognize when ours or a colleague’s tank ran low, embraced the need to face -even celebrate- differences in methods (in surviving overseas and in teaching methods) and how to "carefront" conflicts that inevitably arise within a group of creative, strong-willed North American educators. 😂Summers spent on those teams of educators became treasure. Instead of draining, time serving together inspired me. I looked forward to growing with a new team each year.
It's been 19 years now of watching a shift within the educator community in Asia and America. In 2011 it began weighing heavily on me. As I listened to colleagues and observed on both sides of the globe, the drastic change in retention and entrance rates for our profession caused great sadness. I thought about how different my life would be had any of the educators in my life never taught or quit before I’d learned from them. Each one significantly mattered in shaping my life and character as I grew. I found myself beginning to pray for alignment in how to best use my time and resources. I began to ask, what do I do with the growing burden for educators leaving the profession in record numbers here in China and back at home?
By 2013 our growing family moved back States' side, and by 2016 a group of HS alumni formed hoping to honor a long-retired educator from my hometown. In a conversation with the superintendent about the project, he said, “Remember when we were young? Many of us dreamt of becoming a teacher. Sadly, that’s the exception and not the rule. Most parents hope their students pick anything other than being an educator now... anything we can do to raise teacher morale and remind us of our vibrant history is welcome. We need to acknowledge and honor our past in order to move forward in our present.”
Over the next year the group back home worked with alumni scattered around the country together with the local community to honor our long-retired educator and State Hall of Fame coach. The administrator’s words lingered, “Anything we can do to raise teacher morale is welcome... We need to honor our past to move forward in our present.”
September of 2017. While trying to rest a bit with the kids after school one afternoon, Sherene and memories of summer team building training with North American educators flooded my mind as they often do. The stories of educators resigning, conflict, dissension and discord among colleagues, burnout, teacher shortages, lack of support, limited volunteers and emergency certification rates found me every day without looking. Those stories stood in stark contrast to treasured summers spent serving educators overseas. With each story a growing weight lingered heavily on my mind. I began to imagine what our daughter’s school would soon look like with the current trend. Then, imagining our son’s preschool without qualified teachers flooded my mind. That day, brief rest with the kids didn’t happen. Instead, two phone calls while the kids rested did. One to Mrs. Cherie, our daughter’s former 4-year-old lead preschool teacher. And, another to Sherene McHenry. Our vision to recognize, inspire and support educators with renewed hope and times of refreshing launched RISEducators that day.
RISEducators’ name birthed from Danny Gokey’s song RISE truly following us throughout the few years of planning, filing 501c3 paperwork and fundraising to launch the first event.
Breaking the dark, piercing the night
You're made to shine
An army of hope
Bringing the world
A radiant light
A radiant light
You were made to rise, rise.
Lift your head and look around you
See the dreams you lost, they have found you
And the heart that once was beating
Is coming back to life
Coming back to life”
Many days I sing it and many other songs over educators brought to mind.
RISEducators launched our first event to recognize, inspire and support a local school staff in April 2019. They met us with incredible feedback and gratitude for the opportunity RISE offered to see that their individual lives deserved recognition, inspiration and support. Many educators shared that they reconnected with why they first entered the profession, their desire to bring the best of themselves to their students each day and a reminder that they’re in this TOGETHER as colleagues.
Who's the educator on YOUR mind right now? RISE and honor them with us.
RISEducators: Recognize, Inspire & Support Educators.
Serve an educator, impact generations.
We’ve begun fundraising for RISEducators’ second Refresh event to be held in the Raleigh, NC area welcoming educators serving in any school, preschool, college, university, childcare facility, church, tutoring, drama, music or sports center. If you or someone you know would like to join in sponsoring an educator or an entire event, join in volunteer opportunities, serve on RISEducators Board of Directors or simply gain some insight on our vision...
Connect with us here or thru our website’s contact page: https://riseducators.org/contact .
RISE with us!