On September 8, SCORE announced the 12 finalists for the fifth annual SCORE Prize. Four weeks, 12 schools, 10 districts, 1,800 miles, one speeding ticket, and five pounds later, I returned to Nashville invigorated by the incredible work happening in schools across Tennessee.

I met well over a hundred of the most dedicated, loving, and thoughtful educators in our great state. I had the pleasure of sitting in dozens of classrooms where students were engaging each other in conversations not only about what they were learning, but their opinion on the subject and why their colleagues should consider their opinion. I saw teachers encouraging students to think not just about what the answer was, but why they got that answer and how they might think about getting the same answer using another method. And, I met mayors, city council members, school board members, local business owners, pastors, grandparents, and parents who love their schools, their school leaders, and their teachers so much that they will do whatever is needed to support them in their quest to educate our kids.

21500551223_fe3b1b6e0a_zI’ve worked in education for the last 15 years, been fortunate enough to serve two governors in Tennessee, had the amazing luck to work on our state’s winning Race to the Top grant, and witness Tennessee being designated the fastest-improving state in the nation for academic achievement. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that being involved in the SCORE Prize and visiting each finalist has been one of the most inspirational and informative experiences of my career.

Seeing amazing educators in action, learning about the strategies that allow them to achieve great outcomes for kids, and just being a part of their school family for the day has reminded me why all of us in public education are so passionate about what we do. I am refreshed, I am renewed, and I am ready to continue the work of supporting the educators and kids in Tennessee.

If you are like me, you read a lot of stories about things that aren’t working in public education. You spend too much time and energy worrying that the public conversation on education is making it hard for people to focus on doing right by our kids and educators. You need refreshment, you need renewal, you NEED to come to the SCORE Prize event and be inspired again. (You also probably need to get some time in schools, with educators and kids, but that’s a whole different blog post.)

Come and spend a wonderful evening with SCORE for the SCORE Prize at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center on Monday, October 26. Enjoy the music of Charles Esten, who plays my favorite character – Deacon – on Nashville. See the stories of each SCORE Prize finalist. Learn about the students who earn scholarships through SCORE’s Students Rise to the Challenge writing competition.

Most importantly, join us on October 26 as we celebrate and support our friends and colleagues from around the state who are doing amazing work. I promise you will leave inspired.