Sonny Magana’s Story

Dr. Sonny Magana

Dr. Sonny Magana is an award-winning teacher, pioneering educational technology researcher, and best-selling author. Dr. Magana’s latest book, Disruptive Classroom Technologies, introduced the T3 Framework for Innovation which has been hailed as: “A visionary work; truly insightful and inspirational!” (Marzano, 2017); “A brilliant breakthrough in our understanding and use of technology for learning” (Fullan, 2017); and, “A major step forward; Magana’s T3 Challenge is credible, powerful, and exciting; let’s do it!” (Hattie, 2018). An avid musician, yoga practitioner, mountaineer, and bee keeper, Sonny holds a bachelor of science degree from Stockton University, a master of education degree from City University, and a doctorate in educational leadership from Seattle University. He has successfully climbed the highest peaks in his home state of Washington.

Early Career

Sonny began his career in education in 1984 as an AP Biology teacher and wrestling coach in Southern New Jersey. His students routinely attained very high levels of academic and athletic achievement. A tireless advocate for transcending the status quo, Sonny moved to Washington State and became one of the founding teachers of ACES Alternative High School in Mukilteo, Washington. In 1990, under Sonny’s leadership, ACES High became the first school in Washington to be connected to the recently declassified Internet. This breakthrough led the way for Sonny and his students to explore ways to harness the power of global information and communication technologies to accelerate student achievement. In 1994 ACES High was awarded the coveted Blue Ribbon Award for educational achievement, the first alternative school in Washington to achieve such recognition.

Governor’s Commendation for Educational Excellence

Washington State Governor’s Commendation for Educational Excellence

Sonny and his students were early explorers forging new pathways for connecting with their global learning partners. Sonny became a charter member of the International Education and Resource Network (iEARN). Through the global service learning projects that Sonny and his students developed, they established innovative ways to learn with the world, not just about it.

Sonny and his students pioneered service-based learning with online learning. He and his student harnessed digital technologies to develop the world’s first virtual field trips. Students and teachers from over 60 countries around the globe participated in their virtual adventures to The Arctic, The Amazon Forrest, The Mohave and The Sahara deserts to enhancing their understanding and appreciation for biology, biodiversity, and conservation. Their efforts spawned thousands of action research projects focused on promoting responsive stewardship of our earth.

Milken Family Foundation Award

Receiving the Milken Family Foundation Award from Michael Milken

Sonny continued pushing the boundaries of teaching and learning with technology, recording his findings in numerous published research studies. In 1996, Sonny founded and served as Director of Washington State’s first CyberSchool. The CyberSchool was the nation’s first hybrid learning program designed to improve student wellbeing and learning productivity. CyberSchool was an alternative learning program that served students at risk of dropping out of school.

A longitudinal study of CyberSchool described how effectively the program achieved its objective of developing collective system efficacy by focusing on wellbeing and self-mastery. CyberSchool is still serving the needs of at-risk students. Sonny’s pioneering efforts were acknowledge by Washington Governor Gary Locke, who honored him with the inaugural Governor’s Commendation for Educational Excellence.His methods and findings were hailed as breakthroughs by noted educational leaders. In 1998, the Milken Family Foundation recognized Sonny’s pioneering efforts by honoring him with the prestigious Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award.

Marzano Research Association

In early 2007, Sonny began his lifelong friendship with renowned education researcher Dr. Robert J. Marzano. Sonny joined Marzano research a few years later, serving as the Vice President of Educational Technology. Combining Sonny’s expertise in educational technology with Bob’s research prowess proved fruitful. Their partnership yielded numerous ground-breaking research studies, two best-selling books, and the seed of what would become the T3 Framework for Innovation. Bob recently wrote a moving forward to Sonny’s book, saying, “Sonny Magana is a visionary leader regarding what education can be if we truly embrace the potential of technology. Unfortunately, the bright promise of technology is still in the distance, somewhere on the horizon. If one views schools and schooling through the lens of Magana’s framework, though, that horizon can become clearer, more attainable, and more inspirational.”

Magana Education

Taking the Lead

In 2015, Sonny founded Magana Education. Merging his love of learning with his love of music to establish innovative methods, strategies and practical tools to guide whole learning systems towards attaining and sustaining collective system well-being and mastery

Oxford University Research Encyclopedia for Education

Sonny’s latest book, Disruptive Classroom Technologies, was published to wide international acclaim.The T3 Framework for Innovation is fast becoming the standard sequence for accelerating student achievement through disruptive innovation. Sonny’s methods and findings were recently peer-reviewed and inducted into the prestigious University of Oxford’s Research Encyclopedia for Education.


I Love Rock and Roll
The Bad Pennies

When he isn’t researching, climbing mountains, or teaching current and future teachers and leaders, Sonny can be found writing, performing, and recording music with his band, The Bad Pennies. If you ever hand him a guitar get comfortable, because it will be a while before he gives it back.