Feature: Google Teacher Academy, V1

Tracey Winey is the media specialist at Preston Middle School in Colorado — and she’s very good. She was recently selected to attend the prestigious Google Teacher Academy, at Google Headquarters in California. Tracey has graciously agreed to share her experience with The Big Brain Club. This is the first of her four installments from the GTA. Enjoy, and be sure to follow her on Twitter @premediawine.

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Volume 1: My Perfect Storm

The Google Teacher Academy (GTA) is a two day, free, professional development opportunity. Google invites 50 educators worldwide to participate. I have been watching previous GTA’s, but have never had the courage to apply. This fall, four major forces collided that spurred me into action.

The current GTA is being held at the Google Headquarters, in Mountain View, California. I knew this would be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to visit a company that transformed American culture, education, and social media. It is rare that the GTA is hosted at the Google Headquarters. The location alone, plus the chance to tour Google, pushed me toward applying.

I am often inspired by other educators. Alan November is a respected author and educational reformer. I admire his tenacity to continually improve public education. He hosted a TedxNYED talk that made me reexamine how and why students learn. A major theme of his talk revolved around student legacy. Instinctively, I pondered my teacher legacy. How have I positively impacted students, building colleagues, and public educational policies? November’s Tedx Talk encouraged me to apply to expand my educational practices by learning not only new content at Google, but new pedagogy and practical theories that would be meaningful and memorable.

My greatest learning often happens when I step out of my comfort zone. I am always willing to learn new things and authentically incorporate new technology into education. The idea of collaborating with 50 remarkable educators, while thrilling, is also quite frankly, terrifying.

A poignant interaction happened when a student asked me a question that I couldn’t answer. Because I work with 1,000 very bright middle schoolers, this occurs frequently. I can normally find an answer by consulting other staff members, asking other students, or simply searching the web. This particular situation was not solved by any of the above solutions. Increasing my Google knowledge was another reason to apply.

One of my library idols is Gwyneth Jones, a.k.a. The Daring Librarian. She is continually creating amazing ways for student and community participation at her library. She is a GTA alum and signifies the high caliber of the GTA participant. Gwyneth shared her entire application online and encouraged others to apply! Two other vital people in my personal learning network are Charity Harbeck and Jean Oswald. The three of us represented librarians at the SMART Summit in Calgary during the summer of 2011. Charity recently attended a GTA and encouraged Jean and I to apply for the GTA in Mountain View. Through Charity’s encouragement, Jean and I made a pact to apply. This personal encouragement and pact with respected colleagues was an essential motivation to apply.

I could not ignore the brewing of the perfect storm. I took the plunge, tentatively. I applied to the Google Teacher Academy at Mountain View, CA. The application consisted of making a one minute video and posting it to YouTube. The good thing, I told myself, was that I applied. It didn’t matter if I was accepted or not. Then, I started watching other applicants’ one minute videos and was blown away! I was amazed at the creativity, innovation, and products my educational colleagues produced. I was proud to have my thrown my hat in the ring with so many worthy educators.

Sometimes a perfect storm occurs. For me, it started in September and has been consistently (and quickly) picking up momentum. In October, I was invited to attend the GTA! Since then, I have met my GTA cohort through twitter, Google Hangouts, and YouTube videos. I am both excited and intimidated! Just like a perfect storm, I imagine my journey will be intense, highly charged, and life-changing!

– Tracey Winey

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