Innovating with Help from the Fam

Use of Krissy Venosdale’s Image via Creative Commons: Attribution. Share Alike. Non-Commercial

During the Week 1 #IMMOOC Twitter chat, Tisha Richmond introduced me to the term PLF, or Personal (or Professional) Learning Family. For years I referred to my Tweeps — Twitter Peeps — as my PLN, Personal Learning Network. Substituting one word, from Network to Family, immediately changed what hundreds of people mean to me.

I wish I could write about and praise all of them, but you would have stopped reading this by now. So I’m choosing four people in my Twitter Fam — three of whom I’ve never met — who have changed my soul as a teacher: Krissy Venosdale, Adam Welcome and Todd Nesloney (you’ll see why I paired them), and Brett Kopf.

No. Thank you, Krissy!

Whether she knows it or not, Krissy Vensodale is my most precious mentor. It’s so much more than the #edugood movement, her fabulous posters, the way she handles copyright battles, or makes tremendously tough decisions moving from Missouri to Texas. Her influence is much deeper than that. She taught me teaching is about kids, not about content. In fact, when people ask me what I teach, I reply “I teach kids.” I learned that from Krissy. She also taught me it’s not about the stuff, the tech, the tools. Rather it’s about the relationships you develop with students, families, and colleagues that have everlasting impacts. Thank you, Krissy, for being part of my fam.

Kids Deserve It!

The Kids Deserve It duo of Adam Welcome and Todd Nesloney have shown me that building relationships derived from common interests over social media ultimately needs to develop into a powerful face-to-face collaboration that builds upon strengths and passions. The Kids Deserve It movement epitomizes this: educators getting together for the greater good of children around the world. Their influences continues to inspire and guide much of what I do daily. And while my relationships might be more local than global — at this point in my career — Adam and Todd and KDI ignite a passion deep inside of me to have a bigger impact on (public) education. Thank you, Adam and Todd, for being part of my fam.

Brett and Michael talking shop. (May 2017)

It’s impossible for me to write about educational heroes with out mentioning Remind’s founder Brett Kopf. Brett and I “met” on Twitter in 2011 when I happened on a Tweet from Remind101 about a new communication platform for teachers. Turns out I’m user #7 of more than 2 million current teachers. This is a badge of honor for me. But not only for being an early adopter, but for the value Brett, his brother David, and the rest of the Remind Team place on making teachers’ lives easier. Startups and edtech companies come and go. But not Remind. By establishing early on several core values — being techer obsessed is the heart of the company — they have continued to be a major (the majorest?) player in teacher-student-parent communication. My relationship with Brett has continued to grow over the years. We’ve met at Remind HQ. We’ve met in my classroom. We meet on the Remind app, on conference calls, on Twitter. I have the utmost respect for Brett for taking a huge risk, setting out on a challenging edtech startup journey. His story constantly reminds me (see what I did there?) that hard work, persistence, failing, learning, restructuring, rethinking, reworking always pays off. The story of Remind is classic design thinking. While I’m not in the edtech industry, I am in the communication business and Brett is my role model for providing quality feedback to customers, my students and their families. Thank you, Brett, for being part of my fam.

I’m curious. Who are you heroes? How do they inspire you? What would your life, both personally and professionally, be like without them?