It was an honor to be named to LearnZillion’s Dream Team of educators. I will be creating Language Arts lesson sets for them this summer. As part of the Dream Team, I was given an all-expense paid trip to San Francisco for TeachFest 2013. TeachFest was an awesome opportunity to connect with and learn from some amazing people who are real difference-makers. If you’d like to watch my reflection video, you can view it at the end of this post, otherwise, here’s the written version.
I got an early flight into San Francisco on Thursday so that I could meet up with some friends before TeachFest began. The first stop was lunch at a Thai restaurant in the heart of the City with Jeremy. He’s a Rails developer for a company of about 20 employees called WellnessFX. WellnessFX is an innovative way to track your health with data from your blood. With WellnessFX, you own your health data and are able to track changes with easy to read visuals. It was great to see how passionate Jeremy was about the work he is doing with an innovative company.
Next we visited ClassDojo. ClassDojo started by its founders asking teachers what their number one challenge is. The overwhelming response was that classroom management and student behavior was the most difficult issue teachers face. Thus ClassDojo was born. With ClassDojo, students have customizable avatars that earn points for positive behaviors. When we visited ClassDojo headquarters, Monica showed us letters that students send to ClassDojo and a large poster celebrating student achievement. I love that ClassDojo champions teachers and encourages feedback.
We got a sneak peek at some new features while we were there. Liam, one of the co-founders took us onto the rooftop patio overlooking the City on an uncharacteristically hot day. It was great to hear from him and the vision they have for the company.
We got blue raspberry Icees at 7-11 and headed to our last stop of the day: Remind101 which is in a great location between South Park and AT&T Park. Remind101 is an intuitive and easy to use system that enables you to send text messages or emails to parents and students without trading phone numbers. Brett and Christine sat down with us to get our feedback on some of the site updates and their new Android app. We snacked on trail mix as we had some great discussions about communication with students and parents. They also showed us a really cool testimonial video. It was also great chatting with David, Brett’s older brother before we left and headed back to the Hyatt Regency for TeachFest.
By the time we arrived at the hotel, the welcome dinner was already underway. It was a blast getting to meet some of the fellow teachers I’d spend the weekend with. I met Luciano from NY, a former Jeopardy champion, who would also be one of the inspriring morning speakers at TeachFest. Eric Nentrup arrived and told me that he taught that day, left straight from school and was on the plane within 30 minutes just as the plane was boarding. Some would say he was lucky to catch his flight, but would be premonition for what life must be like for Eric.