Skate to Where the Puck is Going to Be

ice hockeyAfter seeing promotions for the fast-approaching 2014 Winter Olympics, I was reminded of when I was watching a sea of icy blue and white at the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. I was just in awe of the talent, determination, and tenacity all under one roof. If you really allow yourself a moment to take it all in, it is an overwhelming feeling that almost takes your breath away. As the famous Canadians carried the Olympic flag through the stadium, I wondered if they had ever dreamed they would be honored with that special task in this international tradition that seems to unite the world for a moment in time.

Ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky was among the eight Olympic flag carriers and would go on to light the flame in downtown Vancouver to complete the tradition. I couldn’t help but think about the quote he was so famous for which turned out to be the first quote on my FLVS tagline…

I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.

Sounds silly doesn’t it? As silly as it sounds, I’ve had more than 35 taglines in the past 16 years, all of which are always chosen with a thoughtful and deliberate search for just the right motivational message to capture the adventures, challenges, and dreams all of us at FLVS were feeling or facing at the moment. I’ve become somewhat known for my taglines and people look for it to change, knowing that as the tagline changes, so goes the day.

If I reflect on that time in my life and the infancy of FLVS, it was a period of complete uncertainty with everything to prove, yet not a great deal to lose, or at least that is what I thought. Virtual learning in the Kindergarten-12 arena was virtually nonexistent. I remember Dr. Bob Williams, a deputy superintendent at the time who was interviewing and hiring asking, “How do you feel about developing something that has no roadmap and no rules?” The grant was for a high school model. I answered with a bit of sarcasm, “you do know that the only high school experience that I have is what I remember from my own.” He shared that he knew that and was interested in finding someone who was student-focused and had a track record of executing successful technology projects. My eyes lit up and I replied with comfort, “as long as I know you will support me, I’d love it.”  And the journey began.

When I arrived home that night, my husband Bruce and I proceeded to take our evening walk. I’ll never forget his voice as he asked, “You took the job?? Do you really think you are going to develop software?” He worked for IBM at the time so he had a bit of experience in the field. I just shrugged my shoulders and said, “I’m not sure yet. The first thing I’m going to do is find a bunch of smart people and get them all in a room to dream.”

We did develop software. In fact, we were not only one of the first to set the bar, but we also went on to develop one of the strongest instructional models in the industry.

I kept that quote not only visible on my tagline, but posted in big print on my cubicle wall. I started and ended my day with a moment to read and think about the power of Gretzky’s advice.

I had a significant advantage that I have never forgotten: no one expected virtual learning to be anything but a laughable mistake at the time. Because there were no rules and no existing models, we got to make it up! And make it up we did.

I guess the greatest take away from this starting point of the journey was realizing how important it was that I did not have traditional high school experience or children in high school, which would have significantly minimized my ability to dream due to the baggage of knowing. Ignorance was bliss and “not knowing” was what motivated and freed me every day to skate to where the puck would be rather than where it was.


Wayne Gretzky.,  Xplore Inc, 2014., accessed  January 7, 2014.

Post by: Julie Young, former President & Chief Executive Officer for FLVS

In 1997, Julie Young pioneered the launch of Florida Virtual School with the goal of providing high quality, online courses to students throughout the State of Florida. That vision has resulted in Florida Virtual School becoming the largest provider of Internet-based courseware and instruction for middle and high school students in Florida and around the globe.

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