Formal Portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Wheaton at the Awards Banquet

I received notification that the over 720 pictures taken by Lifetouch photographers were available to be viewed on Smugmug, a photo sharing site. It was fun to look back at the fun I had just a week ago in Washington DC. It feels like a long time ago already!

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Good-bye Washington DC

On Sunday, we completed packing everything and boarded the shuttle back to the Reagan National airport. Goodbye hotel, goodbye wonderful Washington DC from this National Distinguished Principal, thanks for a lifetime of memories!

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National Mall at Night!

After dinner, I donned my new NDP hoodie and we went out walking again to see the World War II Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial at night. It was a beautiful cool evening and the sights were gorgeous at night. I liked the Lincoln Memorial better in the evening and think that you could see the sculpture much better. The sight of the monument in the reflecting pool was inspiring. We couldn’t do everything in a few days. The Kennedy Center building, Ford’s Theatre where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, many more Smithsonian Institution buildings to view, the Newseum, the national aquarium, the Washington zoo, and much more await our return. It had been a memorable and enjoyable trip and it was time to see if everything we brought with us, plus all the gifts I received would fit in our suitcases! Enjoy the night pictures.

Check out my new NDP hoodie! It was a cool evening, so I was going to stay warm in this!

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Seeing the DC Sights and Meeting Some Former Students!

On Saturday morning, Mrs. Wheaton and I slept in a bit and then after breakfast went out to enjoy some more sights of the city. Our first stop was to visit the National Mall and enjoy some of the sights of the Smithsonian Institution. There was not enough time to see all of the buildings, but we stopped in the Hirschhorn Sculpture building, toured the gardens there and the American History Musuem. One of the surprise parts of my trip was to find out that two former students that I had in second grade when I taught in Kalamazoo Public Schools now lived and worked in Washington DC. We had a plan to meet up for lunch at the Capital Grille. Abbey works for the State Department and she brought her husband of one year, Chris. They will be celebrating their first anniversary in just a week. Abbey just celebrated her 30th birthday so I ensured we had some special dessert. The waiter brought out the dessert with a candle and we made sure we sang Happy Birthday to her! Ben went to a prestigious culinary school in Washington DC and is now a cook/chef apprentice at a very trendy restaurant in town called Proof. We had a great time reminiscing and remembering what it was like to be a second grader and me be their teacher. Both Abbey and Ben had a hard time using my first name and still called me Mr. Wheaton. Abbey told me that when she is asked a security question on her computer to set her password she always lists me as her favorite teacher. Ben had told me that he considered me to be one of his favorite teachers as well. It was a pleasure to have lunch with them at a very popular restaurant called the Capital Grille and we all had special activities to get to in the afternoon. Ben had to go to work and Abbey and Chris were off to prepare for a special belated birthday celebration for Abbey.

My former students Ben and Abbey. They were in my second grade class when I taught at Parkwood-Upjohn School in Kalamazoo. So great to see them! I am so proud!

Mrs. Wheaton and I were off to a scheduled Capitol tour! We came to the front of the Capitol and it was under construction and the Capitol grounds were off limits! We walked around to the back of the Capitol and entered the newly built Visitor Center and got our tickets for our tour just in time! The Capitol is absoluely stunning. There are many people who want to view it, so we didn’t have as much time to see the different rooms as we wanted. Because it was Saturday, we could not view the Senate chamber or the House of Representatives chamber. We did get to see the beautiful great Exhibition Hall and the original room where the Senators and Representatives met when we were a much smaller country. 50 senators serve in the senate as each state gets two representatives. Representatives are allocated according to population of the state. At this time, there are some 465 representatives. Representatives serve for two year terms and you have to be at least 25 to be a representative. Senators serve for six year terms and you have to be 30 to serve as a senator. You must be 35, a natural born US Citizen to be a president and they serve a four year term. You can only serve two four year terms. As you know, President Obama would like to serve another four years, but his challenger Mitt Romney is hoping that in the November election he will prevail.=. We found out however that the Constitution does not provide for any minimum age to serve on the Supreme Court. The term on the Supreme Court is for life, no term limit. Our guide was very knowledgeable and provided information about the beautiful art work, frezies that have been painted, and historical statues and items placed throughout the Capitol. Enjoy these pictures of our nation’s Capitol!

After our tour, we walked through an underground tunnel to the Library of Congress, the Thomas Jefferson Building. This is the most important libray anywhere. It is an absolutely stunning building and we got to take a peek at the reading room where you can request reference books to read, but not check them out. Presdient Obama got to check out Abraham Lincoln’s bible to be used at his inaugration four years ago. Very old documents like the Gutenberg bible are stored here in hermetically sealed environments. No pictues are allowed of course to perseve the old vellum pages. The whole building has a focus on knowledge and learning. Quotes about education are painted everywhere on the walls. We were now on the other end of the National Mall and we enjoyed our very long walk back to our hotel for a little rest before dinner.

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National Distinguished Principal Class of 2012 Awards Banquet and Ball

At lunch I picked up a special surprise for Mrs. Wheaton, a beautiful orchid wrist corsage that I ordered for her to wear that matched her dress color. I also made a reservation at a nearby hair salon so that she could get her hair done! I wanted this to be a special night for her, just as it was for me! Here is the first look at Mrs. Wheaton’s hair and beautiful dress!

The back of Mrs. Wheaton’s hair! So beautiful!

First picture of Mrs. Wheaton all dressed up for the ball! Beautiful!

Your National Distinguished Principal and my First Lady ready for the ball!

We spent time looking just perfect and  went down to the Senate Room in the hotel to have our picture taken professionally by Lifetouch studios. I got to hold a picture card just like you do on Picture Day at our school. First, they took a picture of me alone and then a couple of pictures of the both of us in our evening wear! I will receive these in a few weeks. Here is the first photo of the two of us all dressed up and ready for the evening!

When we went to the door of the reception room, we picked up an envelope with our name on it. Inside was our table assignment. Mrs. Wheaton and I were placed at table 3.

The seat assignment card I opened. We sat at a table with the director of the Michigan Elementary Principal’s Association, Paul Liabenow and his wife Bonnie, the Executive Director of the National Association of Superintendents and his wife and a principal from Holly, Michigan and a friend of the arts.

The first part of the evening was a reception where one could get a beverage to drink and eat some appetizers. Waiters and waitresses brought around special food for people to try. The first thing that we noticed when we went into this room was the carved ice sculpture with the NDP logo. This was an informal opportunity to talk with one another before we went into the Ballroom. I had our book with me and Rick Walton’s book Mr. President Goes to School. I knew that President Obama wouldn’t be attending the affair, but hoped that I could get our book to Arne Duncan the Secretary of Education.

The soon to be awarded National Distinguished Principal posing by the ice sculpture.

When the reception time was over, big bi-fold doors opened up to review the beautiful ballroom and the elegantly set tables. Each table had a number on it and we found our table near the very front of the room and closest to the head table and podium. I tucked our book underneath the edge of the stage so noone would trip over it. I was in the perfect spot to be able to leave quickly to hopefully give our book to Mr. Duncan.

Here are some pictures of the elegantly set tables!

Check out the pat of butter shaped like the US Capitol!

We were greeted by the President of the NAESP, Mr. Mark Terry and he shared a few words of recognition and welcome. Mrs. Gail Connelly, the Executive Director of NAESP was next. She affirmed our worth as leaders and then introduced Arne Duncan the Secretary of Education. Mr. Duncan gave a well-received speech and he did not use any notes at all! We all clapped when he told us that his children go to public schools in Virginia and he spoke highly of his own children’s principal. Maybe he or she will be the NDP for Virginia Class of 2013! He spoke of the importance of education for all and the importance of a good principal at every school. He thanked us for our leadership and affirmed us for making a difference in the lives of children. Gail Connelly, the Executive Director then thanked Mr. Duncan for his support of public education and told him to continue to fight for the rights of children to receive a free and public education. Mr. Duncan was surprised to receive his own certificate of appreciation and a bell inscribed with his name on it just like the ones we would receive soon. This was my moment, he thanked everyone for the gifts and began exiting out the door. I told Mrs. Wheaton to grab the camera, I picked up our book and ran after him out the door. I politely told him about our book and wondered if he could get it to the President for us. He said that he would and accepted it and signed Rick Walton’s book for our library! Here are some pictures of me and Mr. Duncan!

Presenting Secretary of Education Arne Duncan with our book If I Were the President I Would . . .

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan signed our library copy of Rick Walton’s book, Mr. President Goes to School. He wrote: Mattawan Early Elementary School Keep Reading!

NAESP Executive Director, Gail Connelly and yours truly!

I felt so excited because I had been lugging our book around for days and now it was safely to its destination. Good job! I walked back to my seat and it was time to begin eating. We had a five course meal of salad, soup, breads, steak, and then dessert shaped like the White House made with white chocolate and filled with chocolate mousse, fresh fruit and a chocolate emblem of the NDP insignia!

I ate the insides of the White House dessert and a little chunk of the white chocolate roof!

After dinner we were welcomed back to order by the president of NAESP, Mark Terry and preparations were made for the presentation of the awards. Earlier in the day we had practiced how to line up, get our certificate, wait for a picture with President Terry, then precede to get our bell and another picture opportunity. Everyone was filled with smiles and so excited about this much anticipated moment. Official photographs of the event will be sent to us from Lifetouch in a few weeks. Click on the link to watch the short video of me receiving my award and bell.  Presentation to Mr. Wheaton, Michigan’s NDP

After everyone received their award, we were invited to stand and ring our bells in unison in honor of every child throughout the world to ensure education for all. It was a touching moment. You can view some pictures of me with my bell and click on the link to view a video of the bell ringing ceremony. National Distinguished Principals, Ring Your Bell!

It’s official! Mr. Wheaton, National Distinguished Principal for the State of Michigan, Class of 2012!

Last but not least, there was a live band for the rest of the evening. Time for Mrs. Wheaton and I to try out our dance moves. We enjoyed dancing and chatting with other NDP’s and guests. It had been a wonderful couple of days and people began leaving soon after the dancing began. But, not me! I stayed until the very end and sang with the band members on stage with the band! The last song was one of my favorites-”What a Wonderful World.” There were only two couples left to enjoy the last song! It was so fitting that the band played the Hokey Pokey! Of course, I participated! Here is a video link to see me in action: Do the Hokey Pokey, That’s What It’s All About!

It had been a wonderful night filled with memories that I will never forget and certainly it is a Wonderful World!

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Afternoon Learning Sessions

After lunch, we returned to the Congressional Room for our afternoon learning session. Yes, the time in Washington DC was not just all fun, but an opportunity to learn together as principals. First, we heard an inspirational address from Colonel Art Athens. Colonel Athens is a marine and serves at the Naval Academy. His speech was titled: He spoke to us about leadership and the importance of the 3 C’s and an H. Courage, Competence, Compassion, and Humility. He told us to be a great leader we need to have the courage to make the tough decisions and do what is right for all that we lead. We need to be competent in what we are doing, in other-words being a life-long learner and always seeking knowledge and to strive to be better as a leader. Of course, he spoke of compassion and the need for a leader to care about all of those he or she leads. Undergirding the three C’s are humility. It is something he strives to work on each and every day! Humilty means to be humble and not think highly of ones self to such a detriment that he or she thinks they know it all and doesn’t listen to those around him or her, or care about what others have to say. He talked about noticing each person as a leader and ensuring that we are paying attention to every person we come into contact with, learning from them and loving them. The Colonel has 10 children and the stories he told us were heart felt and all of us gave him a standing ovation.


After the Colonel’s speech we lined up to fill our bags with the mementoes that all of the NDP’s brought with them and displayed. We took a brief break to come back for a collaborative learning session. This was one of my favorite opportunities because we got to talk together in groups. The focus was on 21st Century Learning and we sat at tables that interested us. Each table was labeled with one of the 21st Century themes-Communication, Creativity, Collaboration, Technology, etc.  Our process was to future-think and provide examples of positive opportunities, challenges, and then problem solve how we might impact policy decisions made by state and federal government officials. We were thanked for our input and then dismissed for a few hours of rest and preparation for the big event-the Awards Banquet and ball! But, surprise, surprise! We received another gift, a full 16 set student edition from the Encyclopedia Brittanca company will be sent directly to our school! I also received a downloadable version for my computer! Nice!

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White House Garden Tour

Mrs. Wheaton and I had a garden tour scheduled for Saturday morning after the Friday evening Awards Banquet.  We were surprised with a Garden Tour on Friday with all of the NDP’s!  The rain stopped and we got to walk on the beautiful White House south lawn!  First, we had to line up in our respective tour lines.  Cameras are allowed on the grounds, but not in the White House interior.  Just like every building you enter in Washington DC, bags are checked and you have security checks to go through.  The security was not as tight visiting the grounds as it was to enter the White House interior.  First Lady Pat Nixon, sponsored White House ground tours for the public for the first time.  Since that time, about four days a year, the public is welcome to tour.  Many more people are allowed on to the grounds during this event than in the interior tours.  Throughout the day, different bands play on the grounds to provide a festive atmosphere.  The grounds are well-manicured.  As you travel through the grounds, you find pictures of president’s digging the earth for the trees that they planted.  There are trees planted on the ground from when Andrew Jackson was president.  The story is that he planted beautiful magnolia’s on the ground in honor of his wife Rachel who died before his inauguration   The magnolia’s reminded him of the beautiful dress she had made for the special event.  The magnolia’s are huge and are supported with huge poles and wiring.  They have been growing on the grounds for a long time!  This side of the White House is rarely seen, because it has the Truman balcony off the back where the President and his family can enjoy some respite and fresh air.  The view is wonderful and you have the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial as part of your view!  Very majestic.  There are two beautiful gardens that flank the east wing and the west wing.  The main White House building still stands, but additions have been built to house offices and to allow for larger families living in the  White House.  A couple of special additions to the grounds that the Obama’s have added are a playground for the children and First Lady Obama’s White House garden.  This is the first families back yard, so it is the place where they get to play!  Enjoy the gallery of pictures we took on our tour!

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Picture of the NDP’s at the White House!

Friday morning started out with lots of rain.  All of the morning activities were outside activities, including taking a photo of the National Distinguished Principals in front of the White House and a special White House garden tour.  Never fear!  The weather cleared up and we were able to take our picture in front of the White House and visit the grounds!  We lined up from tallest to smallest and then they carefully placed each person in just the right spot!  Lifetouch studios sponsors all of the picture taking and video making.  When i return I will receive an official photo of the White House photograph taken.  For now, here are some pictures taken inside the hotel, just in case the weather didn’t clear up and then a picture of the photo in front of the White House.  Look for me way in the back in the light gray suit!

Photograph of all of the NDP’s in the hotel lobby taken from the second floor balcony.

Close up photo of me while we are waiting for the official photographer that had us say NDP! instead of cheese!

Mrs. Wheaton’s official photograph of all of the NDP’s! Lifetouch studios will send the “official” photograph in a month or so.

The “official” Lifetouch photo of NDP’s in front of the White House.  Check out their photo magic and how they made the cloudy skies bright blue!

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Memento Sharing

Our Michigan board displayed on a table with the Petoskey Stone artifacts in a basket to share with all of the principals and other guests.

Our day started on Friday morning with bringing our mementoes to share to a room.  Each state had a place card and a table reserved to hold the artifacts that each principal brought.  When I arrived people had been very busy and put artifacts out on the table already.  There were obviously some principals who put together some very elaborate artifacts.  Bags filled with items from each state.  Some displays were very simple, and others were very elaborate.  Some of my favorite artifacts were the miniature Louisville Slugger bat from Kentucky, a beautiful corn necklace from New Mexico, a beautiful handmade leather bookmark from Peru, and macadamia nuts from Hawaii!  I have pins from many of the states and I look forward to displaying some of these items in our Media Center display case.  When we gathered items from each state later in the day, they gave us a big shopping bag and it was filled to the brim with all of the artifacts.  I said “Thank you!” out loud to each state as I put the items in my shopping bag!  The gallery below shows the display of some of the states.  Enjoy!

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National Archives Reception

This is the facade of the National Archives building. I took this picture with my phone. Last picture I could take as cameras are not allowed to be used at all inside the building. The light can harm the precious documents stored within.

After an hour or two of rest after listening to all of the principals speak, Mrs. Wheaton and I cleaned up and got ready for the evening reception at the National Archives.  Only principals and their guests were invited to this reception.  We had to have security clearance in advance to be able to enter.  The Rotunda of the National Archives building is absolutely stunning.  In this beautiful room is where the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence are displayed.  They are all hermetically sealed with argon gas and of course can not be touched.  They are automatically lowered each evening into a special storage area that is secure and ensures that the documents will be safe.   The lighting is very low in the Rotunda so that further damage to the documents will not occur.  We were provided with wonderful food and beverages and heard the Assistant Secretary of State speak to us about the importance of education and our importance as leaders.  After the reception time, we were allowed to visit other parts of the building and exhibits.  The Archives is a place where every document and book related to our government is stored.  Although they have begun digitizing many of the documents, I was told that billions of pages of documents are stored there!  I stopped in the gift shop and bought some cool books to donate to our library about the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence that are kid friendly.

We wait in the hotel lobby to be picked up by the buses to take us to the National Archives. Cute couple, eh?

After the National Archives reception we returned to our hotel and then walked to the Old Ebbit Grill for a very late dinner with other principals from my region.  The National Distinguished Principals from Iowa and Wisconsin and their wives joined us for dinner.  As we walked to the restaurant, we stopped to view the White House lit up at night.  After dinner, we went to the top of the Washington Hotel and looked out at the Washington Monument and the White House.  A beautiful evening!

The White House front door as seen in the evening. We walked everywhere we went in Washington DC. Our hotel was close by. We always made sure that we went by the White House every time we walked back from somewhere.

I had the “special” Maine Lobster for dinner in honor of the Maine principal! The bib ensures that I don’t get any of the lobster juice on my clothes. Dipped in melted butter, yum-yum!


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