Trivia Contest Winner Brian Hill, Assistant Principal at Zilker Elementary, Recaps His Experiences at Tribune Fest

October 1, 2013 |

 My name is Brian Hill. I am a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin Principalship Program and Assistant Principal at Zilker Elementary School in Austin ISD. I first became aware of Raise Your Hand Texas through Twitter after seeing these amazing tweets from other administrators in Texas, writing about their experiences at the RYHT Harvard Leadership Program last summer. I knew right away that I wanted to be involved in the great work they are doing and began following RYHT on Twitter and researching the group online. Because I follow RYHT on Twitter, I was able to participate in their contest that gave away two tickets to the 2013 Texas Tribune Festival in Austin. During their third and final giveaway, I was the first to answer a question about the new charter cap and received the free entrance to the festival.

The festival was a blast and a great learning experience for not only myself, but also my wife, Caitlin Hill, a kindergarten teacher in Pflugerville ISD. Friday evening, we attended the opening session One on One with Ted Cruz. Saturday we attended multiple sessions, including Early Childhood Education, The Fight Over Charter Schools, The Most Exciting Developments Coming Out of Texas, Innovations in Teaching and Public Education Reform: What Now?. I was able to hear from leading voices in the Texas education debate, including Mayor Julian Castro, KIPP Co-founder Mike Feinberg, former U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige and current Texas Commissioner of Education Michael Williams. Closing out the weekend on Sunday, we attended the Turning Texas Blue panel discussion and the final keynote, One on One with Wendy Davis.

All of the panels during the weekend were great, but I most enjoyed the Early Childhood Education panel. Hearing Mayor Castro lay out his plan for providing quality early childhood education for all kids in San Antonio was informative and inspiring. Early childhood education is the foundation for future success and I loved seeing the topic highlighted. I also enjoyed hearing what people in Texas are doing to provide early childhood education in an equitable way that meets the needs of ALL children. That’s real social justice and that’s what we, as educators, should stand for. The session with the best “back and forth” was the Public Education Reform: What Now? session. Hearing the exchange between Commissioner Williams and Rep. Mike Villarreal was great – they were able to have an open and honest discussion over topics like accountability, school choice and school funding. While I didn’t necessarily agree with everything said at all of the panels, I felt like the discussions were focused on what we think is best for kids, challenging me to think whether or not my stance on certain issues is the best choice.

I’m excited to bring back the knowledge I gained and apply it to my own campus, but I’m also excited that I was able to learn more about Raise Your Hand Texas. I got the feeling as soon as I met Dr. David Anthony, Raise Your Hand Texas CEO, and his staff that the organization truly puts students at the center of everything they do and fights for the continued success of public education in Texas. The strength of our public schools is at the center of societal success and I am glad that organizations like RYHT are fighting for our schools and our students each and every day. I am excited to learn more about the program and get involved in some of the leadership opportunities they offer. I’ve already RSVP’d for an event in Austin this month on community leadership!

Thank you to Evan Smith and the Texas Tribune for putting on a great event and thank you to Dr. Anthony and everyone at Raise Your Hand Texas for allowing me the opportunity to attend. You can determine the quality of an event or organization by how much people talk about it after they leave, and my wife and I haven’t stopped talking about the Tribune Fest and Raise Your Hand Texas since!

– Brian Hill, Assistant Principal at Zilker Elementary; @BrianPaulHill

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