What inspired you to become an educator? For me, it was Mr. Miller, my 10th-grade biology teacher. There were others as well, but Mr. Miller was the first teacher who allowed me to uncover that which was to be learned. He was the first to admit there wasn’t necessarily a “right” answer at first, that science was about discovery of new, not the rehashing of old.

We all had a “Mr. Miller” who inspired us to be educators. But, I think it’s worth asking these questions: Are we as inspired to be great educators today as we were when we were first inspired to do so? How often do we explore our inspirations? How seriously do we take our responsibility to inspire?

More than 20 years later, that which inspires me has changed. Sure, I still hold a special place for the Mr. Millers of the world, but in my role as a school leader, I continue to be inspired by the individual people (students, parents, teachers, support staff and community members) I come in contact with every day.

What inspires you? It’s particularly important for those of us in education to think about that because we are in the inspiration business. Much like Mr. Miller did for me, we bear the responsibility to inspire those who have been entrusted upon us on a daily basis. Of course, it’s different than it was in 1987. Some would suggest that there are more distractions. Others may have us believe there are nothing but dangers. Still more argue that we need to insulate children from that which was not present in 1987.

But, we know we can inspire. Moreover, when we chose education as our career we assumed the responsibility to inspire our students. But, unlike Mr. Miller, who inspired me to open my text more, go to the library more and to buy more books about science, we have the ability to inspire our students to connect with others who share their interests. We have the ability to inspire our students to, as Will Richardson says, talk to strangers on online with the confidence that their passions will match that of those with whom they connect and that they can do so safely and appropriately. We have the ability to inspire our students to not only learn new information, but collect, vet, assimilate and create new information. We have the ability to model how we leverage global relationships to expand our learning and encourage our students to do the same. We have the ability to inspire our students to look beyond that which is front of them and wonder what lies beyond.

We’re in the inspiration business. How will you leverage your ability to do so?

Tony Baldasaro is the chief human resource officer of Virtual Learning Academy Charter School in New Hampshire. Having been a teacher, a building administrator, a district-level administrator and now a statewide charter-school administrator, Baldasaro has come to strongly believe that education needs to provide multiple pathways and opportunities for students, that there is no one path to learning. Hence, he spends much of his professional time advocating for use of multiple pathways for students. In addition to writing here, he blogs regularly at TonyBaldasaro.com.

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