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Keynote Speaker - Akash Patel
"Empathy, Action Civics and Cross-Cultural Understanding for Social Justice in the World Language Classroom"

Meet our Keynote speaker, Akash Patel

Keynote abstract

Growing up in small rural communities in Oklahoma where people had never seen or met “a brown Indian guy who spoke five languages and had traveled to over 50 countries”, Akash Patel decided to do something to bridge the gap in global learning and cross-cultural understanding. At first, he started inviting his international friends to video call his students using platforms like Zoom, Skype and Google Meet. Eventually, he mobilized over 1,200 volunteers from over 150 countries to join his Global Connect database at the Happy World Foundation (www.happyworldfoundation.us), a Texas based global education nonprofit he founded after the passing of his twin brother Anand Happy Patel.


In his first year of teaching, Patel was recognized by the Oklahoma State Department of Education and the Multicultural Education Institute as the January 2015 Educator of the Month and the 2015 Multicultural Teacher of the Year for promoting global citizenship in his classrooms and achieving a successful academic turnaround. In 2018, Patel received ACTFL's Leo Benardo Award for Innovation in K-12 Language Education. He was also selected from over 30,000 nominations as one of the top 50 teachers worldwide and shortlisted as a finalist for the Varkey Foundation’s $1 million Global Teacher Prize. In June 2020, Patel was elected to the National Council of the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA) to serve the 2020-2022 term. He was appointed as the chair of the Global Engagement Summit, the largest gathering of American grassroots changemakers and global activists in the General Assembly Hall at the United Nations and the chair of the UNA-USA Educators Affinity group that helps educators from across USA champion the Sustainable Development Goals in their classrooms. In 2021, Patel was inducted in the International Literacy Association’s 30 Literacy Leaders Under 30 list and was granted an "Einstein" green card by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services for his extraordinary contributions to global education.

Patel currently teaches Spanish at Ignite Middle School, a 100% low socioeconomic middle school in Dallas and has previously taught at a similar elementary school in Oklahoma City. He frequently speaks at national and international conferences about his classroom experience. He has trained over 40,000 teachers to use the Global Connect database. Today, thousands of American children travel to countries worldwide through Happy World Foundation’s global education programs.

Classroom Technology makes it easier than ever to connect students to the world. But how can we better harness these connections to empower learners to think and act beyond their classroom walls? ACTFL President-elect Akash Patel will share resources from the Happy World Foundation for standards-based interdisciplinary learning experiences that connect, engage and empower students as valued global citizens. 


During the keynote, the speaker will model a live video call with one or two Happy World Inc. guests from another country and show teachers how they could turn the same video call into a lesson of empathy, action civics, global citizenship and social justice. The modeling of a lesson is key for teachers to realize that they, too, could apply and use this as a resource in their classroom as soon as they return from SWCOLT.