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Google Innovator Academy - I Found My Tribe

Well, one week ago I was just barely through the door at Google in Toronto.  My journey started like this...

I pulled up to the Calgary Airport so excited to be boarding a plane to go to the Google Innovator Academy.  As I sat and waited for the boarding call, I was texting with family, as they were wishing me good luck on my trip.  My mom, who lives in Saskatoon, texted me a picture of the snow they were getting dumped upon them in Saskatoon.  Funny that she should send me that when shortly after I hear an announcement about my flight being delayed because the captain who would be flying our plane (which was sitting at the gate) was flying in from Saskatoon and there was a weather delay.  Great.  An hour delay meant I would be pushing it to get to Google on time.  I didn't want to be THAT girl showing up late to the first day of Innovator Academy.

A few hours later, I was landing in Toronto and it was verging on 3:00pm.  The Academy began at 4.  I was grateful that I had only carry-on, and as soon as that gate opened, not only did I bolt, but several other people because of missed connections.  I ran out of that airport so fast, and grabbed the first cab I could.  I told the cabbie to haul it into the city, as I had somewhere to be by 4.  It was a usual half hour drive, on a good day, I am told into downtown Toronto from Pearson International.  My cab driver sped down the 401and got me to my hotel at 3:55.  I ran in, checked in, dropped my gear and dashed off to Google (about 248 meters away according to Google Maps).

I walked into their office and was promptly greeted by Justin Lacap - a Googler for Google for Education.  He said, "You must be Charity!", and I looked at my lonely nametag sitting on the table.  He took me in the elevator up to the 12th floor so I could officially begin my Academy journey.

It is hard to put into words the feeling you have when you step off an elevator (late to the party), to see many people you have been connected with via social media for over a month.  You are all there for a purpose, and you all are like-minded.  I didn't even need nametags for most because I felt like I knew them already from Google Hangouts, and their profile pictures.  It was amazing to be embraced into this community of people all awaiting the "opening" of the Academy.  As I waited, I gave hugs to friends such as +Michelle Armstrong , +Donnie Piercey and +Jeffrey Humphries , but also had a chance to meet EdTechTeam members like +Wendy Gorton  and +Mark Wagner.  When I met +Sylvia Duckworth and +Sandra Chow I was awestruck, as they are educators and women I have been dying to meet.  I then met fellow Innovators such as +Chris Webb and +Marie-Andree Ouimet - whom I have worked with on MapleSyrupEDU.  It was soon time to settle in and listen to introductions.

The Canadian crew had organized a little welcome number for the American contingent.  It was so much fun to be a part of demonstrating some Canadian Dance Moves. 

After introductions, we broke into our teams.  I was on the "EH!" team, as noted by the sticker on the back of my nametag.  I had been put into a team of amazing people, and our coach was motivating and inspiring.  I will never forget the words of advice from +Afzal Shaikh throughout the Academy.  After our Breakout session, I felt like I knew my teammates (+Annette Slone, +Blake Everhart , +Micah Shippee, PhD , +Isabelle Lavoie , +Kelly Arl) a little more, and I was looking forward to the next two full days with them.  

Our first evening ended with the Innovators sharing drinks at a local watering hole, and then bed, as we had a long day two ahead of us.

Day 2 began with a delicious breakfast on the rooftop patio at Google.  The food Google served up the entire Academy was second-to-none.  So healthy, tasty and filling!  Our schedule for the day was full of Sparks and Design Thinking sessions.  One of the biggest takeaways for most of us were the Design Thinking sessions with +Les McBeth.  I know that these sessions got me thinking really well about how to make my project come to life.  After a long, full day (but VERY inspiring and motivating) we were treated to a reception with massages, a caricature artist, and a magician.  It was a great end to the day.
Several of us took some of the evening to get out and see what we could of Toronto.  The group I was with headed to the CN Tower.  Ten in the evening is a great time to go, as we cruised through the lineup to the elevator.  
On our final day we once again enjoyed sessions with Leslie McBeth, but most of all we worked on a prototype of our project.  The room's walls were covered in post-it notes, both large and small, as we prepared for our gallery walk to observe others' hard work over the three days we were there.  It was so inspiring to see what my fellow Innovators had accomplished and were working towards.  

As we reflected later in the day and then walked the stage for our graduation, I was overcome with emotion (as I often am).  I have put in so much work over the years to get to this point, and becoming a Google for Education Certified Innovator means SO much to me.  It means validation that what I am passionate about is also something I am good at.  It means that I am a part of a "family", as Mark Wagner put it.  I truly found a group of people in Toronto who are like-minded, curious as heck, and motivated to make a change - I found my tribe.

Thank you to everyone who made the Academy happen.  +Becky Evans, +Justin Lacap, Wendy, Michelle, Mark, Sylvia, Donnie, RaFranz, Afzal, Jeffrey and Sandra.  


  1. You have definitely found your Tribe! I am so proud of you for what you have accomplished and how you speak with such passion and confidence!!


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