Do you know the names Mark Verge, Brian Asman, or Rie Hosokai? If not, you are obviously NOT a balloon twister. These people are very well-known in the balloon community, and I feel lucky to get to hang out with them at balloon twisting conventions. This just goes to show you that people who are famous to one person are not necessarily famous to everyone.
Education conferences have a lot in common with balloon conventions, as I wrote about in a blog entry a few years ago. This weekend I got to present a workshop in Philadelphia at the Global Education Forum. Like at the balloon conventions, it was really fabulous to just be in a room with people who are passionate about similar things as I am.
Throughout the conference, I got to have conversations with lots of amazing, inspiring people. You might not have heard of them, but in my opinion, these people should be famous to everyone. Some of them are already on their way. Here are just a few of the inspiring people with whom I got to have conversations this weekend:
Pasi Sahlsberg, whose best-seller book “Finnish Lessons 2.0: What can the world learn from educational change in Finland” has inspired many people in the U.S. to re-examine our educational system.
Jenny Buccos, who is the founder and executive director of ProjectExplorer, which has produced hundreds of short films which have been used by 6 million students worldwide to learn about other places around the globe. Jenny’s films are brilliantly curated to help teachers figure out how to integrate global content into their pre-existing curricula.
Kyle Vaughn, who was one of my co-presenters, is a high school English teacher who got a grant (like the ones I’ve gotten) to travel in India. He then wrote a book documenting the experiences of children who live in the red light district in Calcutta, helped to start a study abroad program at his school, and brought students to volunteer in India. Awesome.
Musammat Badrunnesha, who was another of my co-presenters, founded her own non-profit and two schools in Bangladesh. She is currently one of three people worldwide chosen to do the prestigious Brookings fellowship, in order to continue her research on girls’ empowerment in Islamic schools.
Jesse Weisz, who founded GEEO, an organization which has sent more than 1300 educators abroad (I went to Southern Africa with them). Jesse knows that if teachers’ lives are enriched, students’ lives will also be better for it. He also found us a really great Korean restaurant to dine in on Saturday night.
Christen Clougherty, who founded Nobis World, also runs trips for teachers, only it’s a much smaller organization than GEEO. While so far she only runs trips to two locations, it sounds like her programs are really intensive professional development experiences with an emphasis on helping educators learn how to teach service learning and civic engagement. Good stuff.
Veronica Boix-Mansilla, who is a Harvard professor that co-authored the book which I consider to be the piece of writing which literally defines what it means to be a globally competent person. I worked with her on a study of exemplary teachers of global education and know that this woman is paving the way for this field to keep growing into a game changer for the whole education world.
Jillian McRae, who is an inspiring teacher in Westchester County, NY, teaches a course on racism, classism, and sexism. I wish I could be in her class. She seems to be doing unbelievable work to close the achievement gap and help young people from all backgrounds become aware and effective leaders.
Elizabeth Hummer is an Emmy award-winning filmmaker. She is taking time out of her busy schedule to do the Global Competence Certificate program at Columbia’s Teachers College, because she is passionate about using media to teach kids to be globally competent. I can’t wait to see what she creates.
I could go on and on. The people who came to the Global Education Forum were exceptional, and this is just a taste. The structure of the conference was also thoughtfully crafted. The speakers included many leaders from around the globe and even some student activists. Instead of your traditional keynotes and lectures, there were ignite talks, hands-on workshops, swap shops, networking celebrations, and unconference sessions.
So, watch out. If you hadn’t heard about these people before, keep your eyes open. These educators and activists are making a difference. They are helping young people around the world to grow into globally aware adults who know how to take action on complex issues that affect our planet. This is not an “extra” for schools, but a necessity.