For the past several months I have been communicating with educators from across the globe via Twitter and Voxer. I have become very close to a select group via Voxer. This past week I had the opportunity to meet them in person. We had been planning to meet up at #ISTE2015 for months. To say ISTE was overwhelming would be an understatement. Thousands of educators filled the halls of the Convention Center in Philadelphia. Although I traveled alone, I never once felt alone due to the connections I had made through social media.

When planning to go to ISTE I was given the opportunity to stay with Melissa @melsa777, an ESL teacher from Ohio I had been connected with. I arrived a day earlier than her, but was not alone in Philly. I immediately reached out to Tammy @MathNeil, a 6-12 grade technology and gamification teacher from Florida. We communicated via Voxer to meet up at ISTE Central. As soon as we saw each other in the crowded hallway we greeted one another with a huge hug. It was like meeting up with a friend I hadn’t seen in years. I spent Saturday connecting with other educators from around the world that Tammy knew from Twitter or Voxer. I recognized a few names from my own Twitter followers. I met Knives Chau @iwearthecrowns and talked about third graders use of technology in education. I also had the pleasure to meet Rodeny Turner @techyturner who I will forever remember as the King of Selfies.
If it were not for Sarah Thomas @sarahdateechur I would have never connected with all these people. She is the mastermind behind #edumatch an organization who helps connect like minded educators. I speak to her on a daily basis via Voxer. Her passion for making a difference in not only her students lives, but also other educators lives is astounding. We all met up at Rosa’s Pizza for dinner. Sarah was just as I thought she would be in person. She is quite, yet when she speaks she always has something remarkable to say.

Sunday I woke up eager to get to the Convention Center and meet more of my #PLN. I Voxed Tammy and met up with her and Doug Timm @dougtimm34 who I know from our close Voxer group. Doug is an innovative administrator from Delaware who inspires me daily to jump outside the box. Tammy and I had the opportunity to attend the first Ignite session where Doug was presenting. He had the most powerful message in his five minute presentation. He encouraged others to share their schools mission via a YouTube channel. Why not share you mission with the world, you never know who you might inspire.
After the ignite we went to lunch and connected with a few of Doug’s teachers. Their admiration for Doug was contagious. They shared stories about their school journey and how Doug has inspired so many teachers and students in the few years he has been their administrator. Melissa arrived while we were at lunch. We all hugged and again it was like meeting up with someone I hadn’t seen in awhile. She was just as I expected her to be. Next to arrive was Charles @Thrasymachus, who I already knew in person. We all enjoyed speaking to one another and reminiscing about the times we had together via Google Hangout or Voxer.
The day was filled with lots of meet ups from my #PLN. I met @MrLeBrun an administrator from New Jersey who leads a weekly Twitter chat #totallyrossome on Tuesday nights at 8pm CST. I have participated in his chats for months and love that his questions make you think and are not a general response. Of all the people I met through out my time at ISTE Ross by far had the most impact on me over the four days of the conference. I learned more connecting and talking with Ross than any workshop would have allowed me.
Throughout the conference I had to opportunity to connect with so many amazing educators. Shauna Pollock @misspollock, Maria Mayer @miamayer, Sally Cushmore @mmecushmore, and Doug Robertson @TheWeirdTeacher from #weirdEd were extraordinary in person just as they are online.
As most of you know my biggest cheerleader is Justin Schleider @SchleiderJustin. He has inspired me more than he will ever know. He has been my go to for every vent session I needed and always lifted me up. I was ecstatic to meet him in person and he was exactly as I though he would be. I also was able to sit and talk with his wife Dana @dlschleider who is beautiful inside and out.

The whole point of this blog post is to express the importance of being a connected educator. My close group of Voxer buddies, Tammy, Sarah, Doug, Justin, Melissa, Charles, Becca, and Shelly have forever changed me. I have grown professionally and personally through their support and encouragement. I was honored with the title of Weatherford ISD Elementary Teacher of the Year and I can without a doubt say I owe it all to these people, to my #PLN. I have found my voice through these crazy educators and I am forever in debt to them for changing my life.

If you are not connected I hope this inspires you to build your #PLN. You can find educators who share your same interest through #edumatch @edu_match or by visiting edumatch.education

To my #PLN I would like to say THANK YOU for inspiring me to speak up and share my ideas! THANK YOU for helping me take my teaching from traditional to AMAZING! I love you all and I am grateful to call you all my friends.

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