The OVA Experience

Jason Trinh

Digital Lead Learner, Toronto District School Board

"Like trying to draw a three-dimensional object on a piece of blank white paper, you may capture pieces of it, but not everything. To really capture what is Our Voice Academy, you need to feel the emotion in the room, you need to see eye to eye and connect with another person, you need to hear the music and the stories, you need to speak your truth and you need to smell all of us breaking bread together and building community."

Abbey Futrell

Assistant Superintendent, Edgecombe County Public Schools

“I didn’t realize what was missing in my professional career until I came to Our Voices Academy. While I was expecting to learn how to better amplify my voice as a person of color, I gained much more. I have a new family willing to listen, love, and support each other. I was able to be creative and vulnerable in a safe place with people who shared and understood my obstacles. People who shared and understood what other educators of color endure. People who unselfishly shared their expertise to build up each other. This life changing experience has left me a better person with a beautiful family and a purposeful mission.”

Carla Jefferson

Instructional Technology Coordinator, Darlington County School District

“The OVAcademy was an amazing experience that allowed us to expand our knowledge and skills in a non judgmental space. The fact that Mark and EdTechTeam is acknowledging the fact that the lack of diversity is a problem and is actively working to improve this issue is absolutely wonderful! This experience challenged me in ways that I never imagined. I appreciate the willingness of Jennie, Ken, Monica, and Sarah to support us however needed and give us honest feedback. They have a wealth of knowledge that is second to none!! I am so honored to have been a part of this inaugural group! One of the best PD opportunities I have ever experienced.”

Terence White

7th Grade Science Teacher, Indian Prairie School District 204

“What this weekend taught me was that I will no longer be silenced by other people’s biases or false opinions of me. I now have a family and a platform to start being a social justice warrior! Let the change begin!”

George Barcenas

Technology Director, Bellevue Union School District

“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.” - Mary Oliver After this weekend I see that my box was a gift and it took this experience to see how to use it. My voice matters #OVAcademy #EdTechTeam”

Rosalinda Jaimes

Elementary Teacher, Temecula Valley Unified School District

“This experience solidified that WE are not alone on this journey. That as passionate educators we will use our combined efforts to amplify our voices and to empower each other.”

Knikole Taylor

Blended Learning Specialist, Lancaster ISD

“This weekend was empowering and a reminder that our stories matter. We all have something to share, and I’m more committed with using my voice to amplify our work and the work of others whose voices are often unheard.”

Natasha Rachell

Digital Learning Specialist, Atlanta Public Schools

“I am absolutely speechless at the OVAcademy experience. To be a part of such a magical group of passionate minority educational technology leaders was mind blowing. I am forever thankful and grateful to the leaders that put this opportunity together as it was VERY well organized and full of learning. The safe space that was created from day 1 allowed us to share our stories and not only share our expertise, but be vulnerable as well. I now know that I AM worthy, that I DO have a story and I DESERVE to be heard! I am not only ready to go out into the world and share myself and my story, but I'm empowered to amplify my voice, loudly for the world to hear. I'm empowered to pull up other voices that need and deserve to be heard! I am humbled to be a part of such greatness and filled up with emotion to make a difference by sharing my story.....”

Mia Leonard

Kindergarten Teacher & Digital Learning Coach, Chicago Public Schools

“The OVAcademy reminded me of the importance of representation. For both students and educators. Hearing all the inspiring and uniquely different stories from educators of color was absolutely beautiful. These stories NEED to be told and I am so excited that EdTechTeam is creating opportunities for our voices to be heard. Jennie, Ken, Sara and Monica created a safe space where we all felt comfortable sharing our stories. Their expertise and support in designing our mini keynotes was outstanding. It has empowered me and I am now ready to share my story and encourage other educators to share theirs as well. “

Cutia Blunt

Director of Academic Technology, The Galloway School

“If you take the time to listen for the sounds of diverse voices in the ed tech industry, you can certainly hear them. But it's apparent that our voices need be amplified to a level that currently does not exist. The Our Voices Academy did just that. Cohort 1 consisted of 20 harmonious voices in the educational technology arena. Behind each voice was a dynamic educator with numerous stories to tell. A great honor of my life was being one of those 20 voices. The work that was accomplished over the course of 2.5 days (and several weeks leading up to the academy) will make much-needed ripples in the field of educational technology for many years to come!”

Wiley Brazier

Principal on Assignment for Technology Integration, East Baton Rouge Parish School System

“I feel like I have new family I can lean on and hopefully they know they can lean on me! I will also say that [Jennie’s] ISTE Keynote gave me a whole new perspective on our voice but then I had to go back to my silo. With the specific tools and small group connectedness and the various expertise that everyone brought to the table and shared, I feel like this weekend was a heavy dose of gamma radiation to turn me from Bruce Banner to The Incredible Hulk! EXCEPT THIS TIME, as I’ve returned home I no longer feel like I’m in isolation. I feel I such a bond with everyone that if I reach out to anyone in this space, The Avengers will assemble to support me and each other.”

Regina Schaffer

Instructional Technology Specialist , Middletown Township School District

“Honestly, this academy was so good. I have gone to many of these and none had the skill development, content and emotional connection that this one did. Thank you SO much for creating this.”

Kimberly Lane Clark

Blended Learning Specialist, Lancaster ISD

“Words can’t express how much I have learned over the past weekend! It has been an experience that I will never forget! Wow. The knowledge I gained and the energy that I experienced this weekend..makes me sit back and think of how grateful I am! Thank you @edtechteam for giving me the opportunity and the #ovacademy leaders for being AWESOME! Everyone matters! Everyone has a VOICE! This weekend has taught me that no matter what someone ATTEMPTS to STOP because of what their biases are! If it’s meant to be it will be! No one can stop you from being great! #SayItLoud #tellYOURSTORY #ovacademy @edtechteam”

Brian Smith, Sr.

Digital Learning Instructional Coach, Education Service Center Region 11 Texas

See the full multi-media letter:

“Dear Our Voice Academy, 4 words: Secure, confident, inspired, changed! There is power in surrounding yourself with purpose driven people. People who are drawn together under the same cause or calling. Maybe it’s because they look like, live like or even love like you. We feel the secure when we are comfortable in these environments. Confident to share our stories without fear of judgment, inspired to go out do big things. But for the introvert, the longer, the recluse that I am, the one who doesn’t necessary need all of this, the one who builds community within his own home, I seek to be changed…both emotionally and spiritually when in the midst of like minded people! That happened this weekend. I’ve always known that I have a voice and stories that either needed to be shared or just amplified. I also have always known that I’m here to serve. So, I’ve never hesitated when asked to offer others advice, opinions or feedback; I’m always willing to serve others, but I did not revere the reciprocal. Not because I couldn’t receive or that I feared judgment and rejection, but instead it is the perfectionist mindset that the product is never ready to be assessed, so I kept things to myself! However, the task for the Our Voice Academy and those involved in the accomplishment of that task compelled me to shed that restraint because before I could even open my mouth, you chose to love me regardless… …I have never needed the likes, retweets or standing ovations to validate my sense of belonging. What I realized is that I needed you…I needed this experience. I needed to be pushed while having a soft place to land. To be encouraged and challenged while in a place where it is safe for me to be vulnerable and transparent. To be respected and accepted, not for what my name is or how many followers I have…but because it was recognized that I belong…that I am qualified. I would like to Thank Jennie Magiera for having the passionate vision and the wisdom to collaborate with Ken Shelton, Monica Martinez and my dear friend Sarah Thomas whom collectively understood the need, value and power to change our space forever. Thank you for not taking my silence as a no and persistently coerced my yes. Your eternally grateful friend and champion of you, Brian Romero Smith Sr.”