Part One of Some Number of Personal Reflections on Google Teacher Academy

It all started with a text…

I had never been so anxious to receive a text before in my life.

My GTA video and written application had been submitted weeks before, and the invitations were expected any day. Unwilling to wait for my IMAP and POP email servers to stay current, I also created an IFTTT recipe to forward any incoming emails that contained the words, Google Teacher Academy, or invitation to be forwarded to my phone via text message. It worked. I received the above text while en route to a grade-level meeting and responded with a leap of unfettered joy, not unlike these fellas here:


After my feet returned to the ground, I sent the following tweet and then studiously followed the #GTAMTV hashtag to see who I would be fortunate enough to be connected with at GTA and beyond.

From there, #GTAMTV14 blasted onto the scene with a sonic boom. Our Google+ community blew up with introductions, shared docs, and a series of Hangouts for f2f dialogue. We created maps, designed and printed t-shirts, helped each other solve workplace challenges, and provided feedback on projects and presentations. It was eminently clear from the outset that these educators were everything I daily aspire to be: enthusiastic, knowledgable, empathetic, and wildly creative in their use of technology to reach every learner.

Allison and I hanging the Summit banner!

The 70 days between that invitation and the beginning of GTA were long. There were times when it felt like I’d never get on that plane to Mountain View. Thankfully, I had the opportunity to meet several of my cohort members in various ways throughout the early summer. Our school hosted a Google in Education Summit at the end of June, so I was able to meet Allison Mollica and Julie Kelley.

A few weeks later, I attended the American Library Association annual conference in Las Vegas, and was fortunate to meet Jane Lofton, who helped me get into the Printz award ceremony (thanks, Jane!).

Later that week, I flew from Vegas to Atlanta to catch the latter end of ISTE and had a blast hanging out with Bryson Norrish, Tara Linney, Michelle Green, Dominique Dynes, Michael McCann, Michael Jaber, Dennis Grice, and Adina Sullivan. Ed Tech Karaoke was way more fun than I assumed it would be, and we should definitely go together again next year in Philly ☺ Finally, several of us “East Coasters”, Natalie O’Neil, Marc Seigel, and Caren MacConnell, and I, met in New Jersey for an amazing lunch of Japanese ramen. It was a great way to lay the foundation for the work we were going to do in Mountain View only a month later!

When the time finally came for me to board a plane and head to CA, I was both incredibly excited and a bit nervous. Would my contributions be good enough? I landed in San Francisco, took a taxi to Mountain View, and spent the next few hours exploring shops and restaurants downtown. Later that evening, most of us met for a pre-GTA gathering at the Tied House. The room was full of smiling faces and positive energy. Caren MacConnell organized the entire event, and we enjoyed food and drink while Andrew Kramar handed out our custom t-shirts. When it was time go, many of us found ways of extending the evening by locating local restaurants to haunt until the wee hours of the night…

Google Teacher Academy officially started at 8AM the following morning, but many of us were there significantly earlier than that. We waited by the door and ate the amazing blueberry partries that Tara Linney made for the group. Soon the doors were opened and we stepped into the Googleplex for what would turn out to be some of the most exciting and transformative professional development that we’d ever experienced.