Monday, April 16, 2018

The Definition of Home

Home sweet home.  Home is where the heart is.  There's no place like home.  A house is not home without family.  There are so many ways to define what is home.  However one wants to put it, I can define it in one word for the last 13 years:  Nevada.

I will spare the details, but I made the move to Las Vegas in 2005 after graduating from college.  My girlfriend (now wife) and I were done with school and looking for jobs, jobs that just weren't available in Michigan at the time, and since we both grew up there, we were looking to try something new.  So we loaded up everything we owned (except my mountain bike, that didn't fit in the truck, so a buddy got a nice parting gift from me) and drove 2000 miles to start our post-college lives.  We had no idea if we would like it, how long we would be here (we thought it may only be a couple of years before we moved on to other things), etc.

Fast forward 13 years and many things have changed.  We are both a little bit older, closer to 40 than 30, we have two amazing kids that are "Battle Born", we are accustomed to the dry heat (humidity is BRUTAL now) and the lack of a winter, and we have made some fantastic friends that are like family to us, which made the thought of leaving Las Vegas (not the Nicholas Cage movie) utterly impossible.

Over the course of the past few years, my wife has been trying to get into graduate school to earn her master's in speech pathology.  SLP grad programs are very competitive and much to her frustration, she has been rejected by several schools.  However, my wife is a trooper and while she has been frustrated, she hasn't quit in her attempt to get into school.  This past fall, she began the familiar process of completing applications, gathering letters or recommendations, and writing essays on why she would be a great graduate student.  This time, she chose to apply to three schools:  the University of Nevada, Reno, Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, MI, and Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, MI.

After all of the work she put into the application process for each school, it was then time for the "hurry up and wait" game.  Each school had their deadlines to submit, then a tentative date in which applicants would be notified.  Of course, those dates are tentative; each school extended their deadlines for applications, pushing the notification dates back.  I assured my wife that all that it meant was that a lower number of people applied, but she was dreading that it meant she was going to be rejected again.

In mid-February, she got an invite to go to Grand Rapids to interview for one of the openings at GVSU.  The interviews took place on her birthday, which threw a wrench into our plans to go to a Golden Knights game, but this was a much better gift.  A few days later, she was notified that she had been accepted to Grand Valley's program and had until April 15 to accept or decline.

Meanwhile, there were two other schools that had yet to make their decisions.  She hadn't heard much from Western Michigan, so they became an afterthought.  However, UNR was still deciding and we were hoping that she would be accepted to give us options in the decision-making process.  Until that decision was made, I began the process of looking for jobs in Michigan and Northern Nevada.

By the time spring break rolled around the last week of March, UNR still had not made their decisions.  At this point, it was looking like a move to Michigan was on the horizon.  My wife and I started looking at housing, I applied for several jobs, and friends of ours that we went to high school and college that live in the Grand Rapids area began helping us and getting excited that we may be moving back to Michigan.  However, on April 3, the Tuesday after spring break ended, the email that my wife was hoping to get came through.

On that Tuesday, I received an email from Washoe County School District informing me that my application had been accepted and that they wanted to schedule an interview and to contact them.  I called my wife to tell her about it and asked if I should schedule it.  In the course of the conversation, I got the answer when she got an email from UNR to notify her that she had been accepted to their program.  Since the deadlines to accept were closing in fast, a serious conversation had to happen to decide where the Anderson family would be heading for the next couple of years.

After careful consideration of many factors, my wife and I decided that the best fit for her program and our family's move would be to Reno, Nevada.  As of this writing, I have some leads on some jobs, we have signed a lease for an apartment (which is going to be an adjustment, going from a house back to an apartment), and with the help of my friend Ben Dickson, we have found a great school for our kids to attend next fall.  While I couldn't be prouder of my wife and the opportunity ahead of her, it is going to be bittersweet pulling up our roots and settling somewhere else.  The next few months will be crazy but come July, we will be settling down in Reno, ready to start the next chapter of our lives. 

Until next time...

Thursday, April 5, 2018

A Sense of Community

In 2015, the rumor mill around Las Vegas and the National Hockey League started to buzz.  Bill Foley, a billionaire businessman, was interested in bringing an NHL franchise to Las Vegas.  Over the course of several months, Foley worked with a dedicated team to convince Gary Bettman and the rest of the NHL that hockey in the desert would work if given the chance.  On June 22, 2016, his hard work putting together a season ticket drive and paying a $500 million expansion fee came to reality when the NHL granted Las Vegas it's first professional sports franchise (Las Vegas has had plenty of minor league teams, but never a major level team).

I grew up a Detroit Red Wings fan, and while I will always love them,
I am a Golden Knight now! Image courtesy of
From that moment, the city began to buzz.  Once the team was officially called the Vegas Golden Knights and logos were unveiled, merchandise began to fly off the shelves in the form of t-shirts, car decals, magnets, and sweaters (jerseys for the layman hockey fan).  The expansion draft built a team from scratch, and the players came to Las Vegas to find a home, not just a quick vacation during the offseason.  Everything was set for an exciting beginning for a brand new franchise in September 2017, with training camp and preseason games at T-Mobile Arena.  Then the unthinkable, the horrific, the gut-wrenching, the saddening happened: 1 October.

Image result for golden knights vegas strong
T-shirt logo featuring the Las Vegas Strip,
the Knights shoulder patch logo, and Vegas
Strong, two words that united a city and a
team during tragedy Image courtesy
1 October is a moment for Las Vegans and many beyond that will always remember.  Various events throughout history have had the same effect.  If one was alive for these events, they can most likely remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when they learned of or witnessed an event like this.  Events like Pearl Harbor, the assassinations of JFK and MLK, the Challenger explosion, September 11 all come to mind.  For those that live in Las Vegas, 1 October is very similar.  I'll never forget waking up for work shortly after 5:30 am, making a cup of coffee and turning on the news to see the events that had happened hours earlier after I had gone to bed.  I'll never forget calling into work to make sure that my friends were alright and to do whatever what was needed of me to help.  I'll never forget the 8-hour wait in a hotel conference room to donate blood and the dozens of others that had done the same.  

The Golden Knights home opener was a few days later on Tuesday, October 10, against the Arizona Coyotes.  Anticipation for the day was already strong because of the sheer excitement of having a professional team.  An afterthought to 1 October, but the Knights had also won their first two regular-season games over the Dallas Stars and Arizona Coyotes.  Because the Knights had already done so much to weave into the community, everybody was wondering how they would address the events and aftermath of 1 October.  From the introduction of each player accompanied by a first responder, to the 58 seconds of silence to honor the 58 that lost their lives on 1 October, to Derek Engelland's powerful pregame speech to the world prior to the puck drop, the Golden Knights couldn't have done a better job of honoring the departed, the first responders, the city, and helping to bring a community closer in the wake of tragedy.  You have to see it to fully understand the significance.

As the Golden Knights have embarked on their unbelievable first season (NOBODY predicted this!), they have taken this city by storm.  Everywhere you go, you see people wearing Knights gear, cars are adorned with decals and stickers, bars and restaurants all over the city have viewing parties for every game, and my personal favorite, a hearty "Go Knights Go" and a fist bump or high five whenever you see a fellow fan.

Clayton Stoner, a Golden Knights defenseman,
assisting at the training for PE teachers
So if you are still reading and have read previous posts, you're probably wondering, "How does this apply to the usual topic of education?"  The Vegas Golden Knights have done a fantastic job of getting involved with the community, especially with the schools of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, and Henderson.  In order to grow the game of hockey in Southern Nevada, the Golden Knights partnered with several businesses and the Clark County School District to donate street hockey equipment to middle schools and provide opportunities at learn to skate and learn to play hockey programs at the city's three public skating rinks (5 sheets of ice total).  As a PE teacher, I was invited to participate in the donation program by simply attending a training hosted by the Knights public relations team.  In return for my time, my students are going to receive brand new sticks, nets, balls, and other hockey equipment.  In addition, students will also get Hockey 101 handbooks to explain the rules and play of hockey, coupled with lesson plans provided to me to help introduce hockey to my students.

This is Corey, you'll see him at Knights games 
as part of the pep squad dressed as a Knight,
the mustache abides!
I cannot thank the Vegas Golden Knights enough for what they have done for our city and the programs that they are putting together to help the students of Southern Nevada.  And in another stroke of pure class by the organization that deserves thanks, the team honored the victims of 1 October even further prior to their final regular season home game by retiring the number 58 and hoisting a banner with not just the number 58, but the names of each victim.  I also cannot emphasize enough the importance of community with schools.  A school that does not have relationships with the families, businesses, etc. surrounding them is not going to be nearly as successful as they could be.  Building those relationships will only guide students toward success long after graduation.

If you are reading this blog, you are most likely an educator like me.  I hope that you work in a community that has strong ties between the schools and all stakeholders.  Continue to work each day doing what is best for kids and build those community relationships that will pay dividends for the future of our students.

Until next time...