One late summer evening I was enjoying the company of several other educators who were all presenters at the next day’s large edtech conference. Somehow a little friendly razzing found its way in my direction. The other teachers in the group were giving me a hard time about all of the “corporate” ties I have as an Apple Distinguished Educator, Discovery Education STAR, Certified Innovator for Google, and at the time a Sony Education Ambassador. The word “sellout” might have even been lobbed my way…in a totally fun way mind you.
“Man, I would be a Liquid Plumr Ambassador if they had a group,” I quipped “If it means I get to spend time with 150 other amazing educators I wouldn’t normally get to meet, sign me up.”
While completely spontaneous, that quote sums up the whole experience for me. Nine summers ago I attended my first Discovery Educator Network Summer Institute. Held in the global corporation’s Silver Spring, Maryland headquarters, the week connected me with some of the brightest and most inspiring colleagues I had ever met. Plus, we ate amazing food and toured some of DC’s iconic landmarks. Those experiences and relationships continue today, as does the relationship with Discovery Education. On January 31, I was honored to participate in the NFL Play 60, American Heart Association, Discovery Ed. Virtual Field Trip live from the site of Super Bowl 51. This is just one of the amazing opportunities I have experienced through my relationships with companies like these.
The relationship between company and educator is a balance. Yes, most educator programs are at least in part marketing investments by the vendor. Teachers need to fully realize that before deciding to get involved and weigh what benefits they may gain. It has to be a give and take. Benefits can range from some cool swag all of the way up to career recognition when being recognized by a company like Apple.
I would be lying if I didn’t note that the recognition is very nice. So often in education so much of what we do doesn’t get much notice. Being named an Apple Distinguished Educator was a career milestone for me. It was a goal I set in 1997 and it took me fourteen years to achieve. So few ADEs are recognized that being selected really validated the work I had been doing in the classroom.
“The relationship between company and educator is a balance…Teachers need to fully realize that before deciding to get involved…”
The other way that teachers can really have their expertise validated is when the corporations seek them out as advisers. Logo sweatshirts are nice but when a multi-million dollar entity realizes that you have special knowledge on whether their efforts to impact education will actually make a difference it adds a new level of professionalism to what we do. Yes, we impact our students’ lives everyday but when you are able to help improve a program impacting hundreds of thousands of students you are filled with a whole new sense of purpose.
Ultimately, it is all about the new people you meet when involved with groups like these. As I mentioned, becoming an Apple Distinguished Educator felt like the pinnacle of my career. What I realized when I arrived at the institute that summer was that it was essentially just the beginning of all new adventures I would create and enjoy with the other attendees in the years to come. Some of my best personal and professional friends are all people I met that week in Arizona.
As I approach the end of my twenty-third year in education I think about whether I would still be in the education game if I hadn’t been able to get out and expand my personal learning network on a personal level and enjoy some great adventures around the country. So Liquid Plumr, when you launch that educator network I will be eager to apply for your inaugural group.
: Elementary STEM teacher in Hamilton, Michigan and a MACUL board member. He has been recognized as an Apple Teacher, Apple Distinguished Educator, Certified Innovator for Google, and a Discovery Education Programs Champion.