Boise Teacher Also Honored by Idaho Legislature
Excellence in Education. You would be hard pressed to find a phrase that more accurately describes the professional acumen and dedication that Sonia Galaviz brings to the classroom—as well as to the Idaho Education Association and her local, the Boise Education Association.
After taking home the IEA’s Marsha Nakamura Teaching Excellence Award in 2016, Galaviz was named one of five finalists for the NEA Foundation’s 2017 Excellence in Education Award, and attended a gala in the nation’s capitol on February 10 for the announcement of the top honor. To her surprise, Galaviz was named the national winner and delivered an emotional speech to the assembled crowd. Back in Boise, Galaviz was honored by the Idaho legislature for the NEA Foundation Award and her overall impact on the profession and her students. She addressed both the House and Senate Education Committees during the session and also spoke at the IEA Delegate Assembly. The IEA REPORTER caught up with Galaviz to get her thoughts and emotions about the last few months.
Question-What was going through your mind leading up to the NEA Foundation award winner being announced?
Answer-For the time before the event, I was focused on my classroom, robotics club, monthly STEM camps, etc. I stay pretty busy and am constantly looking for partnerships, resources, grants, and new ideas to bring into my classroom and my school. I was excited for the Gala, particularly because I was taking my own children with me. I found myself thinking more about it the week we actually went to Washington, D.C.
Once we were in DC, it was overwhelming (in a good way). The 5 Horace Mann award winners were ushered in and out of a few different meetings, meet and greets, and running through the program of the Gala. All the award winners were in D.C. before me because they are going with the Global Fellowship to China this coming summer (I am not able to go as I have my doctoral classes). So, I was catching up with everyone, once in D.C. They ran us through every detail of the actual program, which was a lot to remember, but they had people to cue us every step of the way (thank goodness).
For the most part, I was at ease the night of the event. It was really special to share the night with my kids, who are my two most favorite people on the planet. My daughter and I got our hair done and it was fun to get all dressed up. I was backstage when they began the video they made of my classroom. I hadn’t seen it before that night, so that was really gratifying. The filmmakers did a wonderful job capturing the diversity of Garfield and my classroom. I found it interesting to see what snippets of video they picked after two full days of shooting. After the video, going on stage was a little unnerving. I don’t wear heels normally, so I was mostly worried about tripping. Ha!
Q-What were your emotions when your name was called.
A-I literally did not even consider that my name would be called. The Gala was also a long dinner, so we had dessert in front of us by the very end of the night. My son is a picky eater and didn’t touch his chocolate cake, so I was nibbling away at the cake, sort of slouched in my chair. Penni Cyr (IEA President) said to me, “You look awfully relaxed over there, Sonia!” My reply was, “Sure. I’m not going up there.” One minute later, my name was called. I just felt stunned. My son is the one who jolted me into reality. He screamed, “Mom! That’s you!” It felt like a blur after that. My kids’ reaction is what got me emotional. In the video, you can see my son freaking out, in a positive way. So sweet.
The walk up to the stage was a little crazy. I felt like a fish out of water, but I just went where they told me to go. I was rushed to the center of the stage for pictures. I was crying the whole time. Just shocked, really. Then the short walk to the podium seemed like it was happening in slow motion. It occurred to me, “What am I going to say?!” Not a good feeling. I sort of stammered through the beginning and then just spoke to what came to mind. I felt like the award represented public educators everywhere and the value our association places on supporting AND empowering us to be leaders in our own profession, so I spoke to that.
Q-Now that you have had some time to digest the whole awards process, what does it mean to you?
A-It’s an honor, truly. I know so many deserving educators right here in Idaho. Additionally, every one of the Horace Mann awardees was a rock star, truly leading the profession and changing the lives of their students. The attention surrounding the award is humbling. I want to make sure the focus stays on our public schools, what educators need, and embracing our families to elevate what we do in the classroom. What’s great about teaching 10-year-olds is that they don’t care what award you get or how groovy you think you are. They want, and deserve, a great teacher. I’m happy to push myself in that regard, to continue to seek and design ways to close the opportunity gap for my students.
Q-How did you feel about the legislative honor?
A-It was such a surprise to hear that Rep. John McCrostie and Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking had put together a House Resolution about me. John had left me a voicemail during the school day that I was trying to listen to with all the hustle and bustle of the school hallway around me. I got from the message that he wanted me to come down to the Capitol to speak to House Education Committee about a resolution and to call him back. My immediate thought was, “Sure. Yes….what are we speaking about?” I didn’t fully realize that the House Resolution bill was about me. Ha!
Again, it’s humbling. I know it’s important to recognize the positive contributions of educators in Idaho. Public schools are doing GREAT things and are often overlooked. If I can spark any conversation about the efforts of public school teachers, offer an invitation to our legislators to build relationships with our schools, or shed positive light on our association, I am happy to do it. I feel very lucky to receive recognition from the House and Senate and that my colleagues, both John and Janie, would take the time to honor me in such a way.
Q-What was the most important thing you wanted legislators to know about you and other teachers?
A-While public support and funding may be up in Idaho, that wasn’t the case five years ago. I haven’t forgotten the struggle pre/post Tom Luna. I encouraged the legislators to build relationships with the teachers in their districts and beyond. Schools need adequate funding, yes, but we need our legislators to get what we do, what the demographics look like, our daily challenges, and get to know personally the great work being done in schools all over the state. I don’t think anyone can know those issues without building relationships with schools and getting up close and personal with educators.
Q-What kind of support and congratulations have you received over the last few months?
A-I have done a few interviews here and there with media outlets and had several kind letters, cards, emails, and phone calls. Things are pretty much back to normal now. I’m continually searching for grants to fund my STEM projects, still reaching out to new partners for Garfield, and planning events for my classroom and school. Regardless of awards and recognition, the work of an educator is never done.