This post has been in draft format for quite some time. Not because I didn’t have a lot to say (this post is crazy long) but because by writing it I feel like my Innovator Academy time comes to an end. I loved spending 3 days with people who share a similar vision and drive to make education better. We encouraged, supported & challenged (and continue to) each other and made connections and friendships that we can always call on. At the end of the 3 days I could say, “I am a Google Innovator,” but those words will never be able to describe the experience.
The Innovator Journey:
On the morning of Oct 5 I got up at 3:15 and headed to KCI. I had a connecting flight in Detroit, and that was the last stop where I had data. I was a little uneasy about landing in Toronto and making my way to the hotel. Luckily, Brian, a fellow innovator, had noticed that we were arriving around the same time and had arranged a ride with Andy, another innovator who lives just north of Toronto. Andy picked us up (after we figured out which terminal we were actually in) and drove us to downtown Toronto.
We arrived at the Hotel and got checked in. I was starving and thankfully Brian and Andy were willing to humor me and search for food. Andy was the only one with data (Brian and I could only use wifi) so he was directing us to a burger place. When we got there, a Poutinerie sign was behind it. We had talked about poutine in our GHO so, of course, we had to eat there. Andy messaged the group and more Innovators showed up. For a group of people who had never met before, we had conversations like we had been life long friends.
After a quick stop at a pop-up Luke’s coffee shop (thanks to Rachel), it was time to head back to the hotel so we could go to Google.
I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was very excited. When we arrived at Google, we were greeted with balloons and a table with name tags. We were early because we were all excited.
We all grabbed our name tags and were taken upstairs. After visiting with each other, our coaches and program managers introduced themselves and then our Canadian friends had a hilarious dance introduction for us.
We found our groups and headed to our BreakOut rooms. Our fearless coach was Jeff Humphries and since he planned the Breakout, we go to do it first. The JAMMRS (our group name) broke out, of course :-), and then we went to share our own personal Breakouts. This was one of my favorite times, getting to know our group members through their clues and stories. Andy and Marcus ended up having the same answer to two different riddles. It was an amazing moment.
We ate a terrific meal together and hung out on the balcony while we discussed our group cheer and song for graduation. Some decided to go out after we returned to the hotel, but I had been up since 3:15 so I CRASHED.
The next morning we met for breakfast and then hit the ground running. We had so many amazing Sparks and Sprints through out the day to motivate us, inspire us, and focus us with our Innovator project. Our coaches were fantastic as they each brought their own unique gifts with them. We had amazing team building activities that also had an application to our project. Juggling was one of my favorites even though I never mastered it.
We used more sticky notes that I could imagine thanks to Les McBeth and the design thinking process. It really helped me focus my thoughts for my project.
All of our coaches were amazing. It was great to meet and sketchnote with Sylvia Duckworth. Donnie Piercey made me laugh with his awkward muffins. Rafranz Davis helped me create my story and Sandra Chow gave me very helpful feedback on my project and encouraged me every day. Jeff Humphries was the best group leader (maybe I’m a bit biased) and kept our slightly ADD group on track. I didn’t work much with Afzal, but he was an encouraging presence. Our group leaders, Michelle, Wendy, Mark & Becky, were funny and amazing and I loved getting to know them.
When it was over, I was exhausted, my brain hurt a little, and I was sad to be leaving this new family. We are still connecting through GHO and Slack. We are still encouraging each other. I have followed my new family on Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and G+. I know I can call on any of these people and they would help. I can’t wait to see how this fantastic group of people change the face of education and I am honored to be counted as one of them.
I AM A GOOGLE INNOVATOR!