Monday, January 20, 2014

Erin Olson

I “met” her on Twitter. She didn’t tweet “a lot,” and what she said always seemed to mean more than the 140 characters, for some reason.

And then… I actually met her - face to face. Imagine this - I’m new to Twitter (it’s 2012), and I live in a suburb of Chicago. I’m asked by my administration if I’d like to go to Boston for a conference. I have never been to Massachusetts - OF COURSE I’d like to go! Who was going to be there? I had no clue. When I look back at the names of the speakers I met that week, the list blows me away.

The best session I went to in Boston was led by high school English teacher Erin Olson.
From Erin's Twitter Profile
Erin lives in Iowa.
    Surrounded by farmland.
         And I met her in Boston.
It was fate.

She spoke of literacy. “What does it mean to be literate?” she’d tweeted out prior to her session. Every question she asks always makes my gears turn. She spoke about literacy, but it was HOW she spoke that got to me. She chose her words carefully, deliberately adding pauses that captured my attention the entire time. Literacy, to her, meant not only reading, but responding - acting on your beliefs.

Erin is not a talker. Erin is a DO-er. If she speaks about it, she has also done it. Erin practices all she preaches. She reads, writes, speaks… her life. Her poetry is a reflection of all she experiences. Her blog posts help others think of different viewpoints. She does what is best for students. No - she does what is best for people. And, in turn, she inspires them to do what’s best for others.

Since meeting her in person, I’ve waved to her virtually, and she’s waved back on a live feed from a session at an EdCamp. I’ve read her poems and blog posts with fervor. I haven’t spoken in person with her since 2012, but I feel like her message is always with me… I thought of her message when I finished The Running Dream by Van Draanen last week. In it, the author states, “I wonder about the deep, wide abyss between good intentions and concrete action.” On Erin’s laptop that day in Boston was this quote: “Conviction is worthless unless it is converted into conduct.” ~Mohammad Ali. And this is where Erin shines - she converts her conviction into conduct. She moves her good intentions directly into concrete action.

You can find this wise, reflective, caring woman at @eolsonteacher, #IAedchat, #plaea, and encouraging students everywhere with her comments and social media groups. She is now an Instructional Technology Consultant - role modeling for teachers how to inspire students, I’m sure. I’m excited to see her friends and followers comment on this blog post so we can all learn more about Erin.

She makes me a better teacher.
No - she makes me a better person.
I will forever be grateful I have met this amazing woman.
I hope you get a chance to in your lifetime, as well.
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  1. Erin's passion is unmatched, her courage is unyielding and her inspiration is truly lasting on each person she meets. If you aren't following her, you should be, if you haven't attended a session she is commanding, it is mandatory that you do, and if you haven't been welcomed by her smile and challenged by her words... I pray that one day you will be.

    1. Well said Tim. She has an ability to light a fire within each person she encounters that drives them to be the very best.

  2. Wow. You have summed up Erin wonderfully. I haven't met her in person yet, but thinking this summer it might actually work out. Erin also does a great job connecting people--even if they haven't met. Right now my English 9 students are blogging with 2 classes on the other side of the state of Iowa and we haven't met either. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Great post Joy! Somehow I wasn't following Erin until your post. Now, I'm excited to learn and grow from her like you have!