Eric’s Epic Ed-venture: Tales from the Road Continue …

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May 30, 2019

Eric’s Epic Ed-Venture kicked off my year as president of the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), traveling almost 5,000 miles over two weeks to visit schools while blogging the event.
The event, thanks to the generous partnership between The Meemic Foundation and NAESP, captured the essence and enthusiasm for the quintessential American experience – the road trip.
Over the months since the trip concluded, a great many experiences have followed – worthy of an addendum to my last blog entry.
To encapsulate the past seven months into print is difficult at best, if not impossible. Over the past year, I have seen the best of humanity. From visiting a school in New York City where almost 100 percent of the students were new to the United States to stuffing food bags for children in rural Illinois to assisting in the rebuilding a school in Puerto Rico ravaged by Hurricane Maria. The power of human resiliency and eternal optimism underlines the clear commitment people have for each other and their children. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to assist in telling each of their stories.
Immediately after the road trip concluded in October, I had an opportunity to be one of three panelists to provide a Congressional briefing in Washington, D.C., in regard to teacher recruitment and retention.  Schools across the United States are facing tremendous challenges in staffing classrooms, and the briefing allowed for a real-world perspective of why those challenges are occurring and efforts that will assist in alleviating the shortage.
Later in October, NAESP welcomed the 2019 National Distinguished Principals to Washington, D.C. The event afforded an opportunity to recognize outstanding leaders from each state – and some from the Department of Overseas Schools and Department of Defense. These leaders among leaders had an opportunity to tour the White House and offer suggestions to the U.S. Department of Education surrounding critical issues. Pictured with me is Michigan NDP Craig McCalla of Anchor Elementary in Dexter.
In January, thanks to the Lifetouch Memory Mission, educators from North America joined forces at Colegio Bautista in Juncos, Puerto Rico. The school incurred tremendous damage as a result of Hurricane Maria. The mission demonstrated the power of human spirit – as the Puerto Ricans only reflected upon how the disaster drew them closer together as a community and were inspired by those who responded to the call.

In March, NAESP held the National Leaders Conference in Washington, D.C.  Principals from across the nation descended upon the nation’s capital to visit lawmakers on Capitol Hill to advocate on behalf of the school children across America.
March also provided an opportunity to travel to Bangkok, Thailand, to attend Near East South Asia Council of Overseas Schools’ spring educators conference. Teachers from American schools from Pakistan to China attended the event and provided a global perspective – and the realization that geography may separate us, but educators share many of the same challenges regardless of geography.
Smattered between all these events were conferences from Los Angeles to New York City – and all spots between. The opportunity to listen to the successes and challenges our schools are facing while also frequently being able to bring keynote messages has offered a soapbox to speak to the overwhelming success our schools are experiencing while acknowledging areas in need of focus.

I have been asked many times, “What has the highlight of the year been with so many unique opportunities?” It’s a difficult to boil down one event – because each event, each school visit has its own unique appeal. However, I have to tell you, it occurred when I was able to visit a young colleague from Michigan and her husband. At the end of March, she underwent a double bypass and will soon undergo a kidney transplant. Earlier in the month, I “popped” by their house in Southeastern Michigan to visit and tell them that I have been thinking of their family. I have always believed that this line of work is about relationships.
Relationships – with colleagues, staff, parents and children. It’s the foundation that schools are – or should be – built upon. We will always be a human-centered profession, and that means not just taking care of the students but the greater educational community.
Eric Cardwell, president of the National Association of Elementary School Principals, drove 4,500 miles through seven states during his two-week road trip. At each school, Eric met with the principal and learned about the great things going on at that school. Most recently, he was principal at Besser Elementary in Alpena, MI.
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