The organization that I am teaching through, Teach and Learn with Georgia (TLG) asks that we teachers let them know anytime we travel outside of the country. A couple of weeks ago I emailed the staff at TLG to tell them that my fellow-teachers James and Katherine would be going with me to Turkey during our school break. Data from TLG replied asking for the dates of our travel and just to let him know when we get back to Georgia. So, when the three of us along with another fellow-teacher, Brad decided on a whim to go to Armenia a few days ago, I again emailed TLG to let them know that we'd be out of the country and told them when we would be back. Data replied, this time asking for our hostel's contact information in case he needed to get ahold of any of us. I didn't really think anything of the request, and I sent along the information. (By the way, if you ever go to Yerevan, Envoy Hostel is a great place to stay!) Data also said that I was invited to a "formal meeting" at the Ministry of Education and Science in Tbilisi on Thursday to be a "volunteer representative from TLG." Well, there were a few reasons I thought of immediately for backing out of the invitation. First of all, I had planned to be on a bus back to Zugdidi at 10 a.m. Thursday. Secondly, I had nothing with me that I would consider wearing to a "formal meeting." Thirdly, I hate meetings. But after talking it over with my friends, I decided to ask Data if the invitation was open to all of us and what time the meeting was. That was on Tuesday morning. In the afternoon when we got back to the hostel after being out, I had an email reply from Data saying that they had called the hostel to talk to me, but we had been out - the invitation was only for me, the meeting was to be at 11 a.m., and they looked forward to seeing me there. Okay. I guess I'm getting back home to Shamgona later than I'd planned!
I probably should've guessed that the meeting was something relatively important when Data actually called me at the hostel in Armenia. But I'm not always that bright.
This morning, back at the hostel in Tbilisi (Old Town Hostel - another good one, if you are ever in Tbilisi), I got up after a great night's sleep and poked around eating breakfast and packing - I still didn't really want to go to the "meeting." And suddenly it was past time for me to leave - I didn't have time to take the metro like I had planned, so I went out to the main road and caught a taxi to the Ministry building - a beautiful old building that had been a hospital at one point in history. When I arrived, I called Data in the TLG office and he came down to meet me. We went up the marble stairs to the TLG office, and I got to see Tamara, Shorena, and some of the others who had led our training week. It was then that Data told me why I was there: I was being awarded a medal as one of the Teachers of the Year! What?? Crazy!! I was completely shocked and didn't know what to say. I managed to stammer out a "Thank-you" and asked how in the world I was chosen for this honor out of over 600 teachers who are here with TLG. Data and Tamara told me that I was chosen based on the reviews that my school and Educational Resource Center had sent back about the work I am doing.
Data had kept it a surprise because earlier in the week the meeting day and time was not certain. The Minister of Education and Science, Dimitri Shashkini had been stranded at JFK airport in New York!
My head was still spinning as they led me into a beautifully decorated room with a restored fresco on one wall -- and a whole army of TV cameras and reporters, officials, and the other recipients of the awards (Student, Public School, Private School, Principal, Resource Center, etc. - the "Best" of each for the year). As I lined up behind a podium with the others being honored several thoughts went through my mind:
"What in the world is going on?"
"How lucky that I happened to be in Tbilisi today!"
"I'm glad I packed a skirt and something other than hiking boots!"
Minister Shashkini stepped up to the podium and read a descriptor of each person being honored, shook our hands, and gave us each a certificate and a medal. There were lots of flashes, microphones, cameras, and applause. I gave a couple of brief interviews after the ceremony, and went back to the TLG office.
|Me shaking hands with Minister of Education, Dimitri Shashkini|
|A little of the surroudings|
When I finally arrived home at 7:30 p.m., everyone at the house came out to greet me and congratulate me - they had seen me on the evening news. Tea was beaming. Our school principal had called to say that she had seen the news, too. (I tried to find the video of the newscast online, but no luck. This is an article about all the winners: http://www.onlinenews.ge/index.php?id=5906&lang=eng).
I am so glad to be able to bring this honor to them. It's not just my honor - it is for the school, Lika and Tea, and my students. Without them, I would not have the opportunity to do this. My experience is directly related to each of those with whom I work. It is a testament to the amount of work they put into school, just as much as me. Together.
That sounds like a good toast for a New Year's suphra!