Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: The Year I Chose to Dream Big

I've thought a lot about this post.  Debated with myself how I wanted to write it, what to include.  I mean this post is my wrap up from an entire YEAR!  That's crazy.  This year, like any other, was like a roller coaster ride.  There were extreme highs and some pretty deep lows.  But for those of you who read my blog often, you know that I have chosen to focus on what went right, the good memories.  So what better way to end 2013, then to take a look back at my Top 10 Moments of the Year.

10.  TCEA - My number ten moment is TCEA.  TCEA is the state technology conference for Texas.  It's huge.....like only ISTE is bigger in the nation, huge.  This year was my 4th year to attend TCEA, and every year I've had a blast.  But this year was different.  About 8 months before attending TCEA I had gotten involved on social media and made a lot of "friends".  TCEA was my first real opportunity to get to know and hang out with some incredible people.  People like Jon Samuelson, Carrie Ross, Matt Gomez, Mindi Vandagriff, Amy Pratt, Scott Floyd, Dwight Goodwin, Andrea Keller, and Rafranz Davis (and many more).  People I consider friends.  People, that had it not been for social media, I would never have met.  It was my first large conference experience where I spent more time building relationships and getting to know people, then I did in actual sessions.  And at the same time I had more learning experiences too!  I will always fondly remember TCEA 2013 as a big turning point for me.

9.  Skype Changes My Classroom - 2013 was the year that I really started branching outside not only the four walls of my classroom, but also the state of Texas.  I reached out, through social media, to several really amazing people that my class got to meet and talk with. Some of my class favorites were Olympic Gold Medalist Steve Mesler, ISEF 2012 Winner Jack Andraka, Olympic Athlete Giddeon Massie, Paralympic Athlete Joshua Sweeney, and classes from Sweden, Australia, the UK, and Venezuela.  Those experiences are ones that I will hold near to my heart for a long time.  The look on my student's faces when the Olympic and Paralympic Athletes called in was one to remember.  They glow in their eyes to see these incredibly accomplished athletes talk about their lives, show their medals, and share words of wisdom.  Wow.  But truly one powerful experience was bringing in (at the time) 16 year old Jack Andraka to talk about his medical breakthrough dealing with Pancreatic cancer.  And I will always remember the words he spoke to my students about never letting anyone tell them they're too young to change the world, because the truth is it will be the wild, imaginative, boundary pushing kids that do change the world.

8.  My Grandmother - 2013 was the first year I had to live without my grandmother, my greatest cheerleader.  It took me almost 10 months to be able to publicly talk about her, but I did in this post.  She inspires me still to this day to remember that every one of us needs a cheerleader.

7.  Meeting Dave Burgess - I will always remember driving out with my wife to California for the "20 to Watch" celebration, and along the way getting in touch with Dave Burgess.  I had really looked up to this incredible man ever since I read his book "Teach Like A Pirate".  While in California Dave offered to meet up with me and my wife.  He took us out to lunch and gave us a mini tour of a small part of San Diego.  I will forever remember that moment.  Dave probably will never realize how much of an impact that had on me, as a young teacher, who never though anyone, online or otherwise, ever noticed me.  And then months later when Dave flew into Texas I got to meet up with him again along with my friend Chris Kesler.  Those are such special memories that will stick with me for a lifetime.

6.  Flipped Classroom SUCCESS - At the beginning of the school year (in August of 2012) I started the whole journey into flipping my classroom and going completely project based with zero test formatted questions.  It was a terrifying experience.  I spent many a days in tears or banging my head against a wall.  But in April of 2013, I was finally able to show my district some success measures.  We took the STAAR (our state test) and 96% of my students passed on the first try (state average was 75% passing).  I couldn't have been more proud of my kiddos.  Yes, I realize that standardized tests are only one form of measuring success and that they don't judge adequately every student, but still, it was a gratifying moment.  Then being contacted to write a chapter for "Flipping 2.0" along with teachers from all over the nation!  That was mind blowing.  I'd always loved writing but never thought anyone else liked my writing.  But the day that book came in the mail and I got to hold it in my hands is a day I'll not soon forget.  Working with Sophia has also been a huge blessing.  I've gotten to lead webinars for them, write blog posts, and am even one of their Flipped Classroom Certification Instructors!  The success that I have found with flipping my classroom again is a testament to my students and their work.

5.  EduAllStars - this podcast has been a joy from day one.  Never would I have imagined the experiences or the guests we've been honored enough to interview.  We started the podcast with the idea of allowing inspiring people who have a hand in education just share their stories.  It has been such a thrilling experience to talk with people from all realms of the education sphere.  A true highlight, and testament to the power of social media, is when we were able to interview the Secretary of Education.  Regardless of how you feel about him, it was an incredible moment for us to get to speak to someone with that kind of authority and job.  If you haven't checked out EduAllStars you definitely should today.  We're on iTunes, but also YouTube and our website.  I promise you we've got some big surprises lined up for 2014.  Here are the amazing people we interviewed in 2013.



4.  Meeting the President - When I first was notified I was chosen as a White House Champion of Change I was in shock.  I thought it wasn't real.  But through the weeks that followed I was able to travel to DC with my wife and two best friends, tour the White House, speak on a panel, and even shake hands with the President of the United States.  It still is hard to believe.  But you can read about my entire journey with that here.

3.  ISTE - Wow.  Where do I even begin.  ISTE truly was a turning point in my career.  It took me out of my world of interacting online and put me in a room, face to face, with people I admire, look up to, and want to emulate.  You can read about my entire ISTE thoughts here.  I will forever remember meeting and building friendships with Erin Klein, Adam Bellow, Jimmy Casas, Daisy Duerr, AJ Juliani, Colin Wikan, Amanda Dykes, Andrea Keller, Wendy Sanders, Jake Duncan, Martha Lackey, Brad Waid, Drew Minock, Kevin Honeycutt, Ginger Lewman, and sooooooo many more.

2.  Math Fair - My proudest  moment of the year, and my proudest moment of my career was the Math Fair I did with my students.  You can read about it here.  I have never been more proud of my students or the work that they put in.  I will forever have that evening etched in my brain as the moment I saw students proud of their work, proud of themselves, and beaming with joy.  I was in tears that evening and still tear up to this day when I share the stories of my kiddos.

1.  Real Friendships - The number one, ultimate highlight of my year though was creating real lasting friendships of people that I had previously only "known" virtually.  Without the late night phone calls, texts, Facebook messages, google hangouts, and more I would have never survived 2013.  To Brad Waid, Drew Minock, Erin Klein, Andrea Keller, Evan Scherr, Jake Duncan, Wendy Sanders, Stacey Huffine, and Chris Kesler, I say thank you.  Thank you for showing me my worth, for being a shoulder to cry on, and an ear to listen.  Thank you for celebrating with me in the good times and for being there in the bad.  I am the man I am, and the educator I am, because I truly believe that I surround myself with the best people on the planet.



2013 was a blast.  A year filled with huge accomplishments, cool recognitions, and friendships built to last.  Honestly I could have listed my Top 20 moments of 2013 and still had needed more space.  To friends like Brad Gustafson who purchased my children's book Spruce & Lucy for every staff member and allowed me to make a personal video message for them, to friends like Daisy Marino, Summer Diamond, Terri Eichholz, who I FINALLY got to meet this year and continue to have my mind blown by.  To the fun times of being part of The 3 Tech Ninjas and presenting all over the state of Texas.  And to the many more that I've connected with online, shared in your blogs, and so much more.  Thank you to Remind101, Classroom Champions, and Sophia for allowing me opportunities to work with you guys and help provide feedback!  I could go on and on and on, but I'll stop here.

2013 was the year I choose to dream.  But more than that it was the year I choose to dream big.  What does 2014 hold?  I'm not quite sure.  But I'll tell you one thing, I'm not done dreaming.