IEA Member and Idaho Teacher of the Year Attends College Football Title Game
Editor’s Note: Idaho’s 2019 Teacher of the Year Marc Beitia, a longtime IEA member and teacher at American Falls High School, recently attended college football’s national championship game between LSU and Clemson as a guest of the College Football Foundation. We asked him to write about the experience. Make sure you read the part about his passing prowess.
It was a surreal experience the weekend of January 10-14 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The 57 Teachers of the Year from around the country and one guest each were invited, all expenses paid, by the College Football Playoff Foundation, the Extra Yard for Teachers Foundation and the Council of Chief State School Officers to attend the National Football Championship game between LSU and Clemson. Once-in-a-lifetime hardly describes the five-day experience. No expense was spared. Whatever exists above first-class, royalty perhaps, was how all of us were treated for the duration of our trip. My wife, Sally, is not a football or big crowd fan so she gave her spot as my plus-one to our Superintendent, Randy Jensen.
Beyond the experience of the royal treatment and the game, I believe Randy very much came to appreciate the other TOYs and their plus-ones. I am sure he saw in many of them the teachers he has known in his 30 plus years in education and that we both still work with today. Surprisingly, the TOYs typically don’t come from privileged schools. They come from schools with students much like mine, most with everything in their lives except privilege. They work hard every day and many nights to make a better path for those souls in their classrooms. Without exception, it is their love for children and the possibility of making the improbable possible that drives each of them every day in their classrooms and beyond those four walls. They have been an honor for me to know, collaborate with, admire and love’ with several becoming life-long friends.
There is something about the company you are able to keep that sets the tone for an experience. From Randy to my TOY cohort, the company could not have been better. They, like our hosts, were beyond first-class and they are exceptional people to their core.
As I speak of exceptional, it only begins to describe the food we experienced through the evening events–our sponsors spared no expense. I have only had food experiences like this twice before in my life, once at Gary Danko’s in San Francisco and once at Deckman’s in Guadalupe, Baja, Mexico. The single descriptive word that comes to mind is exquisite. I have few memories of food, but this will be one.
Monday, January 13th, 2020 was game day. The day itself was incredible. Randy and I had enjoyed an early morning walk each day through various parts of the historic city and that Monday was no different. Around noon that day the entire group walked to Game-Day central and the spot of the Teacher Toss that was produced and filmed by ESPN. The Teacher Toss allowed each teacher a single attempt to throw a football through a 16-inch hole from about 15 yards. Each successful attempt earned money towards the Extra Yard for Teachers Foundation that was donated by the Eckrich Company. As fortune would have it, Shelley Parks the TOY from Missouri, Jeff Wheatcraft of Texas and I were the only successful attempts earning $25,000 for the Foundation. Shelley stole everyone’s hearts as she completed the throw with her ten-month-old son, Juda, strapped in a pack to her chest. It was awesome and the crowd went nuts! Kirk Herbstreit of ESPN could have earned the Foundation a million dollars with a successful attempt from about 25 yards but settled for $100,000 as he missed the two attempts given him.
The game itself turned out to be a classic. The Heisman Trophy winner, Joe Burrow, played for a National Championship in his school’s home state, facing a team that had won 28 straight games and the last National Championship. Our game tickets were scalping for between $2,500 and $3,000 prior to the game. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be sure. While I had no tiger in the fight it was cool to see LSU win in a hard-fought battle. The crowd went berserk and Bourbon Street outside our hotel was a massive party until almost daylight.
I am humbled by gratitude. My experiences over the past year have been beyond once-in-a-lifetime. I have so many people to thank. It was Randy Jensen, after he became our school district’s superintendent, who saw in me the potential I had long given up on developing further in education. It was his nomination and encouragement to apply for the Idaho Teacher of the Year honor that changed much of my life this past year.
The nomination itself changed me. The actual recognition transformed and propelled me into becoming something I only vaguely dreamed of–a voice that was invited and appreciated by many throughout Idaho and education. To Governor Brad Little, Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra, Senior Policy Adviser on Education Greg Wilson, President of the Idaho Board of Education Debbie Critchfield, the CCSSO, the Idaho Legislature, and our State Senators and Representatives I extend my thanks to you as well for inviting my voice, experiences, and suggestions to the state and national discussion on education and how to best meet the needs of our youth and their future. It has been an honor.
To the College Football Playoff Foundation, the Extra Yard for Teachers Foundation and the CCSSO I say thank you again. It could not have been a better experience. To my Teacher of the Year cohort and Randy Jensen, I say thank you for changing my life. I don’t know what the next few years will bring but I look forward to making a positive difference in the lives of those I work with every day. Whether they know it or not they too change my life as well. day-in and day-out.