“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
This quote, by Maya Angelou, is what set the tone for a life-changing weekend in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Jennie Magiera brought together 20 different, but like-minded minority educational technology leaders from across the country (and Canada) to engage in an intense 2 days of growth, laughs, smiles, and tons of tears. It was an emotional weekend as we learned to tell our stories and share our voices. We all have something to say and we deserve to be heard. Jennie led the weekend with a phenomenal crew of EdTech leaders: Ken Shelton, Monica Martinez, and Sarah Thomas.
Receiving an email inviting you to be a part of the first ever Our Voice Academy from THE Jennie Magiera was just about enough to make me freak out! After examining the list of the other 19 minority EdTech leaders that were included, I just about passed out! The experiences that this particular group of people were able to share will never be repeated again. And I can proudly say that I am both honored and humbled to have been a part of history. The weekend kicked off with inspiration from Justice Alan Page, a former Minnesota Vikings football player (The Purple People Eaters-Google it!), now Minnesota Supreme Court Justice and author. He shared his story of the power that education had on his life and encouraged us to continue to pour into the lives of the students and teachers that we interact with each and every day. We each shared a 2-minute story during dinner to get to know each other and to become comfortable with one another. I think it was in this moment that I truly realized that I was in the presence of some outstanding EdTech leaders.
Flipgrid, graciously hosted our Academy at their headquarters which was perfect as the environment fostered innovation and creativity! The rest of the weekend’s activities included some movement activities, examining the 6 parts of a keynote, professional headshots, training and time to prepare to deliver a keynote that would be delivered to the Academy before closing out the weekend. To hear the stories that everyone had to tell, left me absolutely speechless. Some of the training that our leaders delivered included:
Jennie: Stage presence, how to develop a memorable keynote, storytelling.
Ken: Slide design, image format, how to use fonts effectively.
Monica: Slide design, all about graphics and fonts, how to appeal to the 5 senses.
Sarah: Branding (blogging, podcasting, chats, and live streams).
The keynote that I delivered focused on using your why to drive your intention. I shared the story of my “1 in 5.” This was a group of African American male students that I taught during my second year of teaching. Two of the 5 are deceased, 2 of the 5 are in jail, and the fifth is a part of the 17% of African American males in the United States to earn a bachelor’s degree. He currently serves as a police officer in a major city and is doing well! This keynote is still a work in progress, as we only delivered a snippet of it during the Academy. Click HERE to view the presentation that I delivered. The story of my “1 in 5” will become a part of my larger keynote.
My top three takeaways from this whirlwind weekend were:
- Everyone has a story to tell that deserves to be told.
- “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Tell the ENTIRE story!!!
- You only see the outside of what people present to the world. You don’t know their daily struggle.
This was the most inspiring time that I’ve ever spent in a professional development environment in my life! Each and every second left me hanging on the edge of my seat wanting more! The time that I spent with the other cohort members and the 4 leaders from all different walks of life has truly made me feel like I have found my tribe. A tribe of passionate educators that want better for this world and the students and teachers that we are able to interact with each and every day. I can say that I have made some lifetime friendships, more of a family, that I know I can lean on and depend on for anything that I may need. I absolutely cannot wait to see each and every one of these individuals again! I owe a HUGE thank you to EdTechTeam, Jennie, Ken, Monica and Sarah for seeing the need to bring together this group of educators and helping us find our voices and share our stories. I am forever grateful.
To other minority EdTech teachers and leaders, I would challenge you to get active. Tweet more, blog more, expand your professional learning network, read…. A LOT, engulf yourself in inspirational Ted Talks and attend conferences. There is a whole world out there bigger than your classroom, your school, your cubicle and your office just waiting to hear your story. My hiring principal, Margie Smith, always used to say, “To whom much is given, much is required.” I have been given a HUGE opportunity in being selected as a part of the first cohort of the Our Voice Academy and I have committed to pulling up others that are inspired to grow and advance within the educational technology arena.
Natasha Rachell, Ed.S.
Our Voice Academy-Cohort 1
Digital Learning Specialist
Google Certified Trainer