Alright, this is it, the last day of the experience of a lifetime. Many of us viewed it as a much more relaxed day because we had some breaks and, thankfully, the judging was over. We started out with our morning keynote at the Warner Theatre as a panel discussion about education.
There were four ladies (can I have some diversity, guys?) that talked about topics ranging from teacher pay and respect to getting students in the real world to do projects (2012 election was this example). They all did a fine job and had some great ideas and insights into education. I wish I could elaborate more about it, really.
Next, we moved to the final exhibit viewing. I had minimal traffic, but saw a few interested folks and made some good contacts for the future. Naturally, people were most interested in the video game next to me. I guess this is the point where I started to reflect on my choice of items at my booth. I wanted to have an Alaska fishing video running, but was told that I couldn't use copyrighted goods, so that was impossible. I think I should have simplified my poster a bit, too, to exclude "about me" and "about the school" and include a big graphic highlighting the test scores that improved in the project. Other enhancements may have included a more interactive method of presenting the subject matter.
In the afternoon, we met with our learning excursion groups. Jinan, Maureen, Indra, Susana, and I embarked on elaborating on our project. We were able to come up with our solid, concrete foundation from which to work, and came up with a plan to get the work done in a quality manner. My job is to build the mathematics scaffolding necessary and then do the VCT and submit it to the Partners in Learning website. Easy enough!
After four days, we are finally at the National Art Gallery for the Gala Dinner and Reception! What an exciting time. Again, we were treated like royalty and given access to the art in the museum for our viewing pleasure. There is so much there that it is impossible to see it all in one trip. Pauline, Kelli, and I looked at as much as we could, but we were called out to the awards dinner soon.
We came in to a marching band, and man that was cool! They were loud and obnoxious, just the way we like it in America. Next, we got to see Stomp! perform one of their routines. It was neat because they got our attention in a unique way. A waiter had been milling around picking up dishes, and when he was walking by the stage, he fell over, making a huge crash of silver ware and dishes. Next thing we know, there are two guys attending to him that bust out of the fray pounding on the water carafe's that he had dropped. Then, they are on stage with plastic buckets putting on a show. They had break dancers, too, who were pretty good.
Next, we ate a great 3 course dinner with a salad, steak, and a dessert that was awesome! The chocolate piece in the dessert even had a "Microsoft Partners in Learning" inscription on it. How neat. They definitely went all out.
We then got to the moment we were all waiting for, the awards. First, the mentor schools were recognized. I was very proud to see Highland Tech (http://www.highlandtechhigh.org) as one of them, leading the charge in innovation. Go HTH!
Next the awards. I was definitely hoping to win, but it wasn't to be. The competition was fierce and it was a matter of a point here or there that decided the final outcome. One bad judging session and you are sunk (my first one, Taiwan). The judge from Ireland did come by to shake my hand and tell me I had one of the best projects here, and that I should have won.
But, as a US team, we did very well, winning 3/7 categories! When Fish Fly won Innovative Use of Microsoft Technology, Illuminated Mathematics won in Knowledge Building, and Lou Zulli won with his project. Chants of USA, USA! filled the dinner hall each time we won. It was so cool! We are so very proud of them for taking it home for the US.
Then it became party time! The stage was full of dancers, everybody was talking and taking pictures, and we were just putting the cap on a fantastic week. But we weren't done yet! As a US team, we were invited to Stacey Rainey's room for drinks and social time. It was good to get to know them in a different light. Andrew Ko, of Microsoft, says he wants to go hunting with me next year! I am very excited for that, and hope it works out. I love teaching others how to hunt and provide for their families.
I got to my hotel at about 2:30 am, finally feeling tired from days of activity. But I wasn't done yet! Erin and I had scheduled to stay until Monday so we could Tour DC. After three more exhaustive days of walking around the monuments, we headed home, and here we are, ready for our next adventure!