Torie Leslie: A Fierce & Friendly Champion for 21st Century Learners in Charlotte
Torie Leslie is loving, gracious, and kind – and I ain’t messing with her. She’s a fierce and friendly champion for 21st century learners in Charlotte.
As Chief Academic Officer for Digi-Bridge, Leslie is a good balance between experienced teacher and modern advocate. The Charlotte-based, non-profit works to ensure that young people ages kindergarten through 8th grade have both valuable and unique opportunities to succeed in the digital age. It’s about flipping the mindset about science, technology, engineering, math (STEM, y’all); and, in turn, changing a young learner’s career – and life – trajectory.
With STEM careers on the rise, Digi-Bridge wants to start the technology conversation at a young age. Charter schools see the value; public schools are moving slowly to make it work. Even farther behind in adopting convos about technology and teaching technology are Title I schools. Many struggle to find the time during the school day to even talk technology, let alone teach it or reinforce its importance. That’s the gap.
As much as this is about conversations re: technology, it’s really about providing opportunities for young learners to experience technology. And that’s Digi-Bridge – bridging that gap to create opportunities with courses, clubs, and events.
Leslie serves as the organization’s boots on the ground. Had she stayed a full-time teacher, this would have been her 15th year teaching. She taught in CMS and Asheville City Schools as well as for KIPP Academy Charlotte. She’s also trained and certified to teach business education to middle school and high school students.
If that experience proofs anything about Leslie it’s this – she is a trusted and qualified supporter of the vision that there’s so much more possible for the next gen.
Backtracking a bit, Leslie met David Jessup, Jr. – who would go on to found Digi-Bridge – when Charlotte’s Project L.I.F.T. (translation: Project Leadership & Investment For Transformation) launched in 2011.
“At that point, I had made a career [for myself] that matched Title I schools because those babies look like me,” Leslie notes.
As one of seven facilitators under Project L.I.F.T.’s technology arm, she was able to see the need for technology education and opportunities. And that it wasn’t working as well as it could.
“I remember where David [Jessup] and I were when David said, ‘This school thing isn’t working – I’m going to build my own non-profit,’” Leslie recalls.
The two pinky-swore to work together again. Jessup founded Digi-Bridge in 2014; Leslie joined Jessup as part of the Educational Leadership team in 2016.
As the 2017-2018 school year comes to a close, Digi-Bridge is revving their engines with summer opportunities.
A Daddy-Daughter Code-In is taking place on Saturday, June 2; 90 minute #SteamSaturdays are happening across nine weekends this summer with instruction in programming and robotics; various instructors across a number of different locations in and around the Charlotte area will be teaching the Digi-Bridge curriculum.