by Cheryl Arnett, guest Blogger

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Attending the US Innovative Education Forum in Washington, DC this past summer was an incredible experience. Without a doubt, the best part for me was the opportunity to meet in person my partner and friend, Rawya Shatila, from Beirut, Lebanon. Although we had collaborated for a year with our first grade classrooms, we had not met in person. Social networking and email had allowed us to share our passion for education and also become friends. Our friendship was strengthened by our time together at the USIEF and our collaboration grew as we learned together. The time was filled with emotion and we cherished every moment. Just when we thought we were spending our last evening together, probably forever, we found out we had won and would be traveling to Cape Town, South Africa together in October! We are so thankful to Microsoft for making all of this possible!

The learning and collaboration did not end with our team, however. Another extremely valuable part of the experience was the interaction with other teachers from around the country. We shared ideas, inspirations, and experiences. I returned to my school district with project ideas to share for students of all ages. In addition to the innovative teachers, we met and learned from inspiring speakers Stephanie Hirsh, Executive Director, National Staff Development Council, and Les Foltos, from Peer-ed.com. Of course, Microsoft also showed us incredible products and tools available to make our trip into the 21st century easier!

Presenting at the forum was a new experience for me. It was a challenge that led to personal learning and growth. The doors that have opened as a result are beyond what I imagined and just keep opening. It was truly an opportunity to collaborate, communicate, and create!

Cheryl Arnett