To the “Big Names” attending conferences, from the rest of us,

It’s kind of funny, but walk on any campus and I would argue every teacher is a rockstar to their students. “Mrs. Verti!” Is often yelled across the quad by students I don’t even know. The middle school math teachers who I hung out with at CMC have legendary status amongst my current students who will be so excited I saw them in Palm Springs. My 20 year High School reunion is next weekend and our Facebook group is sharing stories of the teachers we had 20 years ago.

A few years ago, I had a Twitter exchange with two big names in MathEdTwitter about the term “rockstar”. As humble people, they both were uncomfortable with the term and all it implied.

And yet, anyone who has attended any math conferences since joining Twitter has seen the impact these big names have on us “regular folk”. People ask for pictures with them and autographs. A big name walks by and you hear whispers “oh my gosh! That’s so-and-so!”

I’ve thought a lot about this since observing this first at CMCS15. I’m not one to obsess over Hollywood celebrities or ask for pictures if I happened to run into one. But seeing Dan Meyer walk by me was the highlight of day 1 and on day 2 I asked to take a picture with Jo Boaler. But these big names in MathEd impact my daily life and the lives of people that are very dear to me, my students. Their work has inspired me to continue to fight for my students and has been instrumental in helping me change my teaching practice for the better. I am a better teacher for my students because of their work.

I had a desire to improve the first 10 years of my career, but these resources weren’t easily available. I read books and searched online, but I’d argue in the past 8 years, the EduKnowledge online reached critical mass to reach a significant number of teachers in the classroom. For me personally, between Pinterest, Twitter, Jo Boaler’s Online Course, Math blogs, #MTBoS, Desmos, GeoGebra, and CMCSouth, I finally had practical tools I understood and could apply with my students. In #MTBoS circles, I considered myself a lurker for a long time. I felt inadequate and self conscious that I didn’t have anything worthwhile to contribute compared to the big ideas. I’m just starting to realize that because I work with kids, I have a voice and something to say.

The big names I’ve met are humble and kind. I’m sure it’s overwhelming to be recognized to the extent that they are.

Dear Big Names,

Thank you for your work. It is proof that you have faith in the ability of math teachers to make math interesting and relevant. It is proof in your faith that our students, who we would literally take a bullet for we love them so much, can learn math at high levels. In a culture that denigrates our students and our work and undervalues it in so many ways, your faith in us keeps us going. So, just know that our fan girl (or fan boy) behavior comes from a place of love. Your work has gotten me through a difficult time professionally and I am so grateful.

Love, the rest of us

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