This past school year found me spending my time working at The Innovation School to find a new director and solidify the many things that I had been doing for the past 6 years so that the school could continue to flourish under the guidance of a new leader. There were (and are) so many emotions that went along with all that work.
This Summer, I continued to meet with our new leader, Heidi Woods, to train, support and help her transition into her new role as Educational Architect (Executive Director) for the school. I felt excited and hopeful as she began leading our team and things continued to fall into place.
I had been working on a few grants towards the end of the school year. The Yass Prize was due in July and I found myself putting off applying. The odds of making it to the first round of applicants seemed like a long shot (they expected over 2000 applicants) and my Summer was beckoning. I had company coming to visit and my days were full of all the fun of Summer break, especially for a school administrator in July, when the hubbub of the end of the year had died down but hadn’t yet started up for the next school year. But I continued to receive reminder texts about the due date as well as inspiring emails from former winners who shared that they had been in the same place the Summer before, only to be surprised and humbled to have received the award later in the Fall. So… nearing the end of the deadline, I finally finished my application, which took about 4 hours, and clicked submit. Phew. Done.
But wait… part of submission was the agreement to review and give feedback on 5 of the applicants. This needed to be done on a strict timeline and was due just a week after my submission. (Again, I remind you of the loveliness of July for the life of a school leader!) Reviewing five other submissions really humbled me as these organizations were all doing really amazing work. I felt even more of a longshot after reading through these applications.
I had put it on my calendar that the livestream announcement of the top 64 quarterfinalists was last Thursday. I was working with some students and really didn’t think that we had much of a chance, so I decided to watch it later. To my huge surprise, I came back to my email shortly after and found one with the subject line “Congratulations and welcome to the quarterfinals!” I was speechless and at a loss for words. I think I said “WHAT?!?!?!?!” and everyone around me had to know what was up. I remember saying “I think I just won a grant that I applied for,” but again it didn’t feel real. Slowly, as the emails started coming in and the information from the Yass Prize group streamed into my inbox, I accepted the news. Our little microschool in Bismarck, North Dakota was heading into the top 64 of what is often called the “Pulitzer of Innovative Education” with a chance at winning a $1M award. Even just typing that, I have to reread it!
I am heading to Cleveland, Ohio on October 9 and 10 to meet the other amazing award winners and hear the announcement for the top 32. I feel so incredibly grateful and excited. The Innovation School is being recognized nationally but could never have made it this far without our local support of our staff and parents and board members, plus our amazing students that shine and help our work exemplify cutting edge education. Our friends at Northern Cass School District are former winners and the gracious and innovative Cory Steiner said that it was an incredible experience. We are proud to be recognized in this way and are eager to learn more and grow on our journey with the Yass Prize. The timing could not be more perfect as our new director takes us into the next stage of our sustainability and growth as a school. It’s an exciting time to be in The Innovation School family! I am thrumming with gratitude as we share this news with our stakeholders and local media. We can’t wait to share more of this exciting journey with everyone as we enjoy the ride of the quarterfinals of the Yass Prize!
A collection of thoughts, ideas and reflections from our educators, students, and families.