Google Innovator – The Academy

I have often used Google offices as a reference for designing my classroom or learning spaces in my school. And I’m not going to lie, I was freaking out about visiting a Google office for the Innovator Academy. It was exciting enough to go to London, but to spend three days immersed in Googley goodness was beyond thrilling. The office was the former headquarters of YouTube. While I couldn’t pinpoint an exact theme (nautical?), you could tell that all of the spaces were designed so that a camera could be set up anywhere and filming could commence. We worked on three different floors while at the academy. Each floor revealed new Google esthetics and spaces. Being able to collaborate with fellow educators in such a creative space definitely made me long for the ability to consistently work in a Googley environment.

The coaches for the academy were top notch. It was fantastic to finally meet Becky Evans and Wendy Gorton, the intrepid organizers of the Academy. Their professionalism and

My coach, Tinashe, and Team Heart.

ability to connect with everyone immediately set the tone for the Academy. It was inspiring to see how they could work the room. I was thrilled to discover that, Tinashe Blanchet, would be my coach. An ardent and enthusiastic fan of Beyonce, Tinashe would give me just the right amount of prodding and encouragement needed during the academy.


The greatest thing about the Google Academy was spending three days with passionate educators. I was amazed at the dedication and creativity that was apparent with every educator in the room. Conversations never ended, but rather flowed from idea to idea. I have never attended any professional development that carried this kind of energy, with all of the participants thrilled to be in one space together. I also loved the global connections that were made, as many of us were coming from different parts of the world to meet in London. In our teams, we got to know each other and our projects on a deeper level. This helped to create a bond that will continue well beyond the Academy.

Les McBeth was the captain of the design ship. She introduced everyone to the Design Thinking process and inspired us to seek creativity and innovation in our projects. Having a background in Design Thinking, I was really excited to hear Les’ perspective and learn from her experience. It was an amazing connection for me to see how large corporations like Google use Design Thinking in all aspects of their business.

Les McBeth

If nothing else, I could finally confirm to all of my students what I had been telling them, Design Thinking is a skill that future employers will want you to know. Les started us on the process of taking our initial project idea and forming it into a solid prototype that we could then take away from the Academy and begin making a reality.

I entered the Academy with a solid understanding of what I wanted to focus on for my project. For three days, working with coaches and my fellow innovators, I took my idea in a new direction. Originally I was planning on creating a website that would be a resource for students and teachers that wanted to learn Design Thinking. From my own experience, I found that what I really wanted to focus on was an app that would allow

Prototyping the Innovator Project.

students to document their thought process when working on a project, using Design Thinking as a model for the documentation. Essentially, I wanted to make a digital design journal app. Part of the reason I went for this idea is because it scares me. I know how to easily create a website, but I’ve never made an app before. I’ve always wanted to learn the process of app design, so I figured this was the perfect opportunity to learn. I’m nervous about the coding, but I know that there are plenty of resources online to help assist me.

I’m also excited about the project because I ask my students to go through the exact same process every semester. Being a part of this program has put me in the role of the student, using Design Thinking to create a product that requires that I develop new skills and understanding to accomplish. This opportunity will give me the ability to empathize with my own students, and I’m grateful for that.

The Google Innovator Academy was quite simply the best professional development I have ever had as an educator. Everyone made me feel like a rockstar. From the inspiring presentations from the coaches, to learning about what makes Google so Googley, to connecting with amazing educators, to simply being in an amazing space, all of it made me want to be the best teacher I can be. And really, isn’t that what good professional development should do?

To all educators who are thinking about applying to the Google for Education Innovator program…do it. Don’t wait, don’t put it off, fill out that application. I am excited to see where the year takes me. I’m thrilled to start working with my mentor, Charles Shryock, on my passion project. Most of all, I can’t wait to see how my amazing new family will revolutionize education.