Main Conference Closing Plenary Luncheon
Saturday, July 14
Frank McCourt and David Ely
The 2007 Advanced Placement Annual Conference drew to a close on Saturday afternoon with a speech by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Frank McCourt.
Though he had the audience laughing much of the time, McCourt also talked about the often uncomfortable realities of the teaching profession. Before publishing Angela's Ashes, about his childhood in Limerick, Ireland, the author had taught English and writing in the New York Public School system for nearly three decades. "It amazes me," McCourt said, "that the world doesn't pay more attention to teachers."
"Why is it," McCourt asked, "that everybody thinks they know about education in schools? They wouldn't be so presumptuous with a doctor or businessman, would they?"
McCourt lamented the image of the teacher in America. "The teaching profession is [seen as] the downstairs maid of professions," he said. "I don't think you often hear parents brag about their kids wanting to be a teacher because it's disappointing [to them]. You all know this: it's the most magnificent and noble of all professions."
Jim Waley, president of the Siemens Foundation, presented the Siemens National AP Teacher of the Year Award to David Ely. Ely has taught AP Biology at Champlain Valley Union High School in Hinesburg, Vermont since 1979 and over 98% of his students have received qualifying scores on the exam. The Vermont native described teaching as more than a job. He called it "a way of life."
Over the past decade, Ely has taken over 200 AP Biology students to Central America to work on various projects. He encouraged his fellow teachers to "travel with your students if your situation permits. Let them experience a new educational context. Let them see you outside the classroom. Let them see your values and your humanness in a new dimension." Ely stated that in this way "their horizons will broaden."