Jamie Stallings was one of 50 teachers to participate in the Disney Imagination Campus Celebration at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla., over Memorial Day weekend.
“I was able to meet colleagues from around the country, learn from experts from a variety of fields and got to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Stallings said. “I am incredibly grateful for that. Teaching is hard. The past few years have been extra hard, and this experience really validated the work I do and the work all teachers do to serve our kids.”
Stallings is an Education Accelerated by Service and Technology teacher at Lakeside Junior High School.
Participating teachers were served breakfast in the Tomorrowland Terrace Restaurant, spoke to the leadership of the Imagination Campus, explored the Magic Kingdom while collaborating on a concept and model for their own theme park and participated in a parade in their honor, he said.
“Being a grand marshal in a parade while people cheered and thanked us and all the extra magical touches were amazing,” Stallings said.
The teachers also learned about leadership and innovation from Disney, the Magic Kingdom, runDisney and ESPN Wide World of Sports representatives, he said.
“They talked a lot about interview and collaboration skills that I’m going to share with my kids,” Stallings said.
Lead Imagineers over the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction in Shanghai and the EPCOT park redesign in Orlando also shared development concepts, their process and how they work with their teams, he said, noting their feedback was of particular interest to him as an educator.
Two science department leads also discussed their roles in the development of attractions, preservation and the influence of diversity, Stallings said.
Additional weekend experiences included participating in a directed and choreographed scene from “Frozen the Musical,” a discussion on dealing with burnout by “The Lion King on Broadway” alum Alton Fitzgerald White, dinner for the teachers and their families at EPCOT, a front-row seat at the Harmonious EPCOT Fireworks show and a surprise ride on the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind attraction.
The 50 teachers came from 32 different states and were selected from more than 5,800 written applications that centered on the creativity and imagination they each demonstrate in their classrooms on a regular basis, according to the release. Many of the selected teachers incorporate various types of classroom transformations into their curriculum, creating vibrant and imaginative worlds that spark the minds of students.
Stallings was the only Arkansas teacher selected for the honor.
His application centered on the work his students accomplish through his EAST class, Stallings said.
“The weekend was easily one of the best I’ve ever had, and I can’t wait for August to get back to school and share some of the amazing things I learned with my students,” Stallings said.