Mike: How do you foster the close collaboration we see among Minnesota teachers?

Mark: I think a lot of our collaboration comes from the tradition among Minnesotans of a strong work ethic. People are willing to put in the time to help their communities.

Ben: Minnesota is an education-forward state. There’s a large community of people who have connected over the years at various events and online who share a passion for changing education.

Sean: Teachers are a special breed of folk. They give themselves over to making a difference in others’ lives. The thing that I do to foster that collaboration is provide space, time and tools.

Katrina: I look to three key ingredients: culture, tools and time. Culture is seeing the “we” and “our” in everything. These are our students, not my students. Tools like Google give us a starting point — a place for collaboration. The last piece is time: giving teachers the dedicated time to work together every day is essential.

Molly: We know that we’re better together. We’ve created an amazing network of teachers and specialists that share ideas and best practices, and know the lessons we have learned can really help other schools in the area. We share ideas at local conferences, present and attend the Summits featuring Google for Education, and participate in our Twin Cities Google Educators Group — all of which create an amazing network.

Mike: How do you help teachers support each other?

Mark: In my district we offer year-long training for educators to become technology leaders in their schools. Molly Schroeder actually created and teaches the program, and it’s made a big impact. Participating teachers get 10 semester credits, and the school district pays part of their course fees. After this year, one in 10 teachers in White Bear Lake will have completed the program.

Ben: One great channel for teamwork is the Google Apps Hive, an interdistrict professional development program. The Hive connects pockets of innovation in schools throughout the region and brings together teachers in Google Apps for Education districts to share their best ideas, workflows, lessons and strategies. The goal of the Hive is to increase the quality of professional development and spread the word about good technology integration practices.

Mike: Which educator are you thankful for, and why?

Sean: My dear friend Andrew Rummel, a former English teacher who’s now teaching English education at St. Cloud State University. We share a sense of the possible and the potential in education. He challenges and encourages me to remain dedicated to learning about the hard stuff. How do we do better for all kids? How can we use teaching to improve the world for our own children, and the children of people we'll never meet?

Katrina: I am profoundly thankful for our middle school media directors: Karen Qualey, Tara Oldfield and Christina Lindstrom. They get stuff done with a can-do attitude — they’re focused on students and learning and they’re willing to experiment, fail, learn and iterate. Because of their leadership, Bloomington Public Schools smoothly introduced 2,500 Chromebooks for all of our middle school students, a process that would have certainly been less successful and more painful without them.

Molly: My mom. She was a kindergarten teacher for 36 years, and touched the lives of so many people in our community. When I became a teacher, I knew that I wanted to know the students I taught as well as my mom knew her students. She showed me that being in education didn't just mean teaching the students, but really knowing them and their families. To this day, former students stop my mom and tell her what a great teacher she was, because she cared about them.