Our Network Imagining Beyond: Beyond NTAC 2020

August 10, 2020

Beyond NTAC almost didn’t happen. As reality changed in March and continued changing into April, our future was awash with Need to Knows

  • How can we support network educators during these unprecedented times? 
  • What will peoples’ needs be in July – versus now? 
  • Will anyone have the desire or capacity for online learning in the summertime? 
  • Is it even possible to hold a “virtual conference” that is meaningful, relevant and fun?

Then we heard from you. We heard a desire to learn, a thirst for inspiration, and a yearning to stoke the passion that is renewed every year, in person, at NTAC. So we got to work. 

We asked our nearly 500 educators from across the world to answer the call to Imagine Beyond; to reflect on what we value most, shift our focus there, and let go of things that matter less. We sought to inspire our network with a range of diverse learning and connecting opportunities that included:

  • Four powerful and inspiring Keynotes
  • Deep dives into 25 topics that included:
    • Equity as a verb
    • Supporting the social and emotional wellbeing of students in a virtual space
    • Designing an adult learning plan
    • Unpacking and implementing the NTN curriculum frameworks
  • Connecting with each other as people – whether it was through a mindfulness walk, cooking experience, or Braindates.

The recordings of Keynotes and featured sessions are available to NTN Help and Learning Center subscribers and can be found here. As we gathered together digitally across multiple virtual platforms – including Slack – here’s just a taste of what took place, across each day. 


For day 1, we envisioned easing attendees into the week and affording them an opportunity to check out the schedule and get accustomed to all the platforms. Fortunately, our Keynote speakers had other intentions. Ray Diaz, a student from Samueli Academy, Ravonya Knight, an educator from New Tech @ Zion-Benton East , and Jose Garcia, a former NTN teacher and current NTN coach, immediately challenged and inspired attendees by speaking passionately about the need to disrupt systemic oppression happening in schools and communities, sharing their own experiences, and how they have set intentions to pave a better future.


World renowned educator Stephen Ritz kicked off Tuesday, with a Keynote focused on what authentic learning really looks like. Learning topics throughout the day ranged from engaging EL learners to classroom strategies that offer seamless inclusion of the NTN rubrics in support of authentic feedback.

NTN’s own Dese Zuberi even led a cooking session for some of his famous Vegan Tacos!


Epidemiologist and former Detroit Public Health Commissioner Dr. Abdul El-Sayed joined us for our Wednesday keynote, sharing what every educator needs to know about COVID-19 and health inequities that hinder opportunity.

Learning sessions ranged from practicing Antiracism in schools to elementary literacy practices. Meanwhile, conference attendees connected via Braindates on topics such as “Excel at Excel! Come share tips/tricks to help your data practices” and “What features are used the most in Echo and are effective for elementary students and staff?”


On the final day of Beyond NTAC, Dr. Tehia Starker Glass taught us how to create access for racial equity within our schools and how to tackle historic oppression. She challenged attendees to examine the different places where inequities may exist and offered network attendees valuable next steps for continuing Anti-racist work in their own school communities.

Learning included deep dives into Echo’s advanced features and how to design authentic learning that moves beyond the classroom walls. We also held racial identity groups, which sought to foster spaces to reflect on the moment in our society, as well as process the stories participants shared all week in our #racial_identity slack channel.

The lasting impact of Beyond NTAC was not because of any single learning or connecting experience – Our Network succeeded in Imagining Beyond, because of the stories, take-aways, passions, and insights, that were collectively shared and experienced throughout the week. The resilience of our Network was evident during Beyond NTAC and we left the week inspired and humbled by the dedication of the educators across our Network. If you weren’t able to join us this time, have no fear – we plan on many more opportunities to connect, reflect, and inspire together. We must resist returning to practices and policies that were not meeting – and in many cases harming – the needs of our students and their futures. The only way to accomplish that, is if we support each other in our collective goal: That every student, every student, deserves an authentic, purposeful, and connected school experience. Now is the time to turn Imagining, into Action. Let’s get to work. 

 Andrew Biros
New Tech Network