As I prepared to write this post I realized that I am coming up on my tenth year at Discovery Education. I think back how much I have grown over the years and I am reminded how much all the people who have touch my life during that time have helped shape who I am today.
I remember the first day I considered how amazing the Discovery Educator Network could be for myself and other educators. I was working with Hall Davidson around 4 AM in a hotel in Paris and suddenly realized how much I had to learn to become the educator I wanted to become, and I was learning this from a person I did not know hours earlier.
Before that moment I will admit I was a little cocky about my knowledge and skills regarding technology in education. I had been part of the first online community adventure program, MayaQuest, as a fifth grade teacher. As a school administrator, I had helped lead an elementary school to being recognized as the Model Technology School for the state of North Carolina and now I was humbled as Hall introduced me to ideas I have never even considered. It was at that moment that I knew I needed to broaden my horizons, whether with Discovery Education or on my own.
The next time I realized the potential of this community was during my first full team meeting at Discovery Education. I was sitting next to a man I had never met before, as a group of us brainstormed ideas on engaging the community. Suddenly the man sitting next mean excitedly spouted off a list of six or seven acronyms I had never heard of before and how these things could help connect our community. As I turned to look at him with a confused look on my face, I once again realized how far behind I really was. Yet instead of mocking me or looking at me like I was a fool, the man calmly, yet excitedly, explained what he meant and thus began my Steve Dembo education. To this day I cannot have a conversation with Steve without being awed and inspired while learning something new. He is just one of the many people who have helped opened my mind to ideas I would have never considered on my own.
It was from point forward that I truly understood how important others would be to my professional growth. Thus began my Discovery Educator Network journey. It was in the early years that I first met some amazing educators from across the country. We hosted events and workshops and shared our knowledge with each other. Not a single event took place in which I did not learn something new or an educator did not let someone know they had been inspired to be a better educator because of the events of the day. For some the inspiration was an “ah-ha!” moment, for others it was just being able to connect with another educator with like minded ideas, and for some it was a fun little tool or app that allowed them to start engaging their students in new ways. As I heard educators share their heart-felt experiences during these days, it felt like a whole new world had been opened before me, and I began to see what the Discovery Educator Network could mean to educators and their students across the country.
From those early years on I wanted to do everything I could to provide these experiences to as many educators as possible and for my fellow DEN members to do the same. I began to imagine what impact the community was having on the lives of not only the educators we worked with, but even more importantly, the lives of the students they work with daily.
For the past ten years I have had the pleasure of meeting so many inspirational people across world and to learn from them, be inspired by them, and occasionally help them. They have all opened their hearts to me and I to them. I have seen many of them excel to new heights. Some are now sharing with others through professional development, keynote presentations, and new district level positions. Others I have seen helping to hold someone else up in a time a of need or just to encourage someone on their first step of exploration. But the beauty for me is that all of these connections exist because of a chance meeting at an event in which two or more people decided they wanted to learn or share something. For me personally I have developed some of the closest friendships I have ever had including running buddies, parental advisors, and confidants during challenging times. I know my community has given me more than I could ever give them.
I am happy to say that after ten years we are still closer to the beginning of what the community can do for educators and students than we are to the end. I think about what the future holds for the students who are touched by educators who share and collaborate with each other across the world and see a very bright future for these students. My charge to those reading this post is to continue to open your minds to new ideas and to open your heart to each and every parent, student, and educator you encounter every day.