I follow the National Science Teachers Association on Facebook and Twitter. As a result, I have been seeing many posts this past week regarding the convention that is taking place in San Antonio this weekend. I haven't attended an NSTA convention in many years - I believe the last one was in 2002, a few months prior to the birth of my daughter. As I read the tweets, I recalled how much I thoroughly enjoy conferences. I thereby pulled out my journal and read a few entries (before I began blogging, I kept a hand-written journal). Here is one I would like to share:
21 March 2001
I have just attended my first National NSTA Convention (after attending a few smaller, regional and or state conventions). It will certainly not be my last. I had a spectacular time and it has been even more special because Patrick was able to attend with me.
The first day, like the other conventions I have attended, is a little overwhelming (trying to get organized, finding the location of the talks I am interested in, navigating the exhibit hall, etc). Buzz Aldrin was the keynote speaker. We had to wait in line for nearly two hours to enter the lecture hall (tickets were not distributed, it was first come, first served).
Just after we arrived, I realized that I had forgotten my copy of his book Men From Earth in our hotel room. I was distraught as I had desired him to sign it. Patrick, to my delight, was willing to ride back to retrieve it - a 1-hour bus ride - one way! This meant he would miss Buzz' address. Patrick you are an angel! Thank you for being there for me & coming to my rescue!
After Buzz' address, I waited another hour for the book signing - needless to say, he wasn't too happy to sign an old book. He was there to push his newest title. He signed my copy but was noticeably grumpy about it. I heard later that he refused to sign a NASA lithograph a man had cherished since he was a little boy.
The line waiting at the convention was very common. I learned there were approx. 20,000 people in attendance. Incredible!
Thursday night, we attended a dinner in my honor at Cafe de France. It was superb! I ordered Greek Salad, Venison Steak with steamed veggies and potatoes, and Amaretto Cake. Regrettably, I don't recall all the details the server used to describe each dish. Next time, I will be sure to write it down or request a keepsake menu. [ I really do this now! I have quite a collection of menus. :) ]
The award coordinator for the CIBA Foundation, Lois Amend, was very classy. It was a memorable occasion just meeting her. I felt so comfortable in her presence - she was very humble and down-to-earth.
On Friday, I did get a change to go to a couple of sessions and see many of the exhibits. Surprisingly, even though there were four 160 page catalogs describing the activities (short courses, sessions, workshops, tours, and special events) there were few that were actually of interest to me. Those I did desire to attend frequently conflicted with one another. Disappointing yet I don't believe that I'll spend as much time in line at future conventions. I spent another 2 hours Friday afternoon waiting to have Bill Nye sign a book - in retrospect, had I known he was going to address the Council for Elementary Science International (CESI) luncheon on Saturday - I would've waited.
I also participated in the NASA NEW Share-a-Thon on Saturday whereby past participants of the NEW workshops shared with prospective applicants activities and projects we had learned ourselves. I was very nervous. I had brought two activities to share: film canister rockets (which turned out to be a familiar favorite for many) and Geometry of Moon Phases - a hit! There were so many attendees, I ran out of handouts! It felt really good to share my ideas with others. Even other NEW alumni enjoyed the moon activity. Wendall Mohling (NSTA Coordinator for NASA) and Christina Gorski were very appreciative of our participation and gave us small thank you gifts (NEW lapel pin, a patch, and a coffee mug). Very Cool!
The highlight of the trip was above all the CESI luncheon on Saturday. The council members were so genuinely excited to meet me. I could not believe how special they believed me to be. The CESI/CIBA award, I learned, is their highest honor. When Patrick and I arrived, we were quickly ushered in (despite the huge line of people who had purchased tickets). After we were shown our seats at a reserved table near the podium, I was quickly introduced to Barbara Morgan, the luncheon speaker and next teacher in space. She was as excited to meet me as I was to meet her. Everyone was giving me hugs and shaking my hand. It was a little overwhelming. When I looked over the luncheon agenda, I discovered that Bill Nye was also being presented an award. My name was on the same agenda as his!! Wow! I am still in awe. There were nearly 400 people at the luncheon including Connie & Bonnie (fellow JPL NEW alumni) ... it was great to see them.
When Barbara Morgan gave her address, she said, "Isn't it wonderful to have bright, young people like Eva Varga teaching?" I was so honored. People I didn't know were taking my picture as I was presented my award. As the luncheon came to a close, others came to shake my hand and congratulate me. A retired woman even gave me the microscope she won during the raffle, "You'll need this more than I, dear. Besides, I don't really want to pack it home." How delightful! :)
A few people even recognized me in the exhibit hall and came up to express their good wishes. "Eva, you are such an inspiration. Congratulations on your award. You certainly deserve it." I never would have guessed the scale to which this award would be recognized. I have truly been blessed. The benefits will continue as the new relationships I've developed promise to open doors for me in the future.
In the word of Bill Nye, "Science teachers, like Eva Varga, are what keep the PB and J in teaching .. Passion, Beauty, & Joy."
I share this with my readers in the hope that you will be inspired yourself to pursue your passions. I have come to realize I miss this part of my life - the professional me. I am thereby taking strides to bring her back. Look forward to great things to come as I share my experiences and skills more regularly.
Have any of you attended conventions? Perhaps a homeschool convention or blogging conference? Perhaps you have attended conferences focused on specific interests or hobbies like stamp collecting, knitting, or jewelry. I'd love to hear about your experience.