Just over a week ago I was frantically tearing my house apart looking for my Green Card, horrified at the thought that I wouldn’t be able to attend the Microsoft Global Forum in Prague. Today, after an amazing week in the Czech Republic, I find myself unpacking as a Global Forum winner and I realize that this is going to take a really long time. I’m not just unpacking a suitcase; I’m unpacking an event, a life changing event at that. It’s going to be a while before I can truly process my thoughts and feelings about my experiences because I’m utterly overwhelmed by how much I have learned and how much I have grown as a result. So I am going to indulge myself and unpack slowly and publically via this Blog-I apologize in advance. J
My biggest take away from last week is a profound sense of gratitude. Microsoft brought together over 500 of the most innovative teachers, school leaders, education leaders and government officials from 80 countries. Having the opportunity to meet and talk with these people about their work is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I am committed to forging strong and lasting relationships with as many of them as I can. Continuing the dialogue through the PiL network and via social media can only further enrich my journey as an innovative educator and ultimately have a positive impact on my students.
At the forum it was announced that Microsoft has committed to another five years of the Partners in Learning Program, investing $250 million in their vision of capacity building for educators as they work to transform current education systems. $75 million will be used to help bring digital access to young people and educators in developing nations through initiatives like Spark a Child’s Digital Future. Beginning in Kenya this program will attempt to help children gain access to the tools, experts and resources they need in order to be able to succeed on a global level. I am beyond grateful to be involved with a company who demonstrates such a commitment to improving the lives of children all over the world.
Beyond corporate initiatives I have been moved by the commitment to education on the part of individuals at Microsoft. Anthony Salcito is Vice President for Microsoft Education and he is a prominent figure at the forum. As well as delivering keynote speeches he was frequently available at the forum to answer questions and celebrate alongside teachers, educational experts and government officials. His personal commitment to education is evident through his DailyEdventures Blog and the passion with which he describes his hopes and dreams for the future of education. He has a unique talent for making members of his audience feel like he is talking to them individually and inspires everybody in the room.
Lauren Woodman, General Manager Microsoft Education Program, was a model of grace as she hosted the final awards ceremony. Her appreciation for educators is undeniable and it must have been a particularly proud moment for her to have her own mother be present as part of the US team. I was fortunate to attend the Global forum last year in Washington and was astounded to receive a handwritten thank you note from Lauren within weeks of returning home.
Sophie Tual, Worldwide Marketing Manager at Microsoft, had obviously worked tirelessly to organize an outstanding event that made everybody there feel like royalty, especially with the culminating awards ceremony at Prague Castle. Sophie seemed ever present despite her work responsibilities, taking time to speak to participants and learn about their projects. She wore a permanent glowing smile which lit up a room and made connections with people that she maintains beyond the event through Facebook and Twitter. Her level of enthusiasm is contagious and her appreciation for educators and students obvious.
Rob Bayuk and Carrie Hoople Hispsher are key players for the US team as they spend months preparing and guiding educators through the forum process .Always ready to answer questions and help make the experience memorable for everybody they provide unending support and appreciation. I was thrilled when the bus leaving for the airport at 5am on Sunday morning was flagged down by Carrie so she could say goodbye and wish us a safe journey home. She is a wonderful caring lady who I am proud to call my friend.
I will forever feel indebted to Microsoft for inviting me to take part in this event. I urge every educator to join the PiL network as soon as possible and begin learning from amazing educators from around the globe. As a company Microsoft has established an irrefutable dedication to education, the individuals I have mentioned have helped me to remember that teaching is indeed a noble profession. Thank You.