Dave Ferrero, Senior Program Officer in Education at Vulcan Inc., and his team are launching a series of new opportunities for teachers across the country. We wanted to know about the Allen Distinguished Educators, which offers $25,000 awards, and the grants for classrooms that implement methods piloted by these educators.

What is the Allen Distinguished Educators program?

Dave Ferrero Headshot

Dave Ferrero is a Senior Program Officer for Education and talked to us about the foundation’s programs for educators

We’re launching the ADE program to put a spotlight on K-12 teachers who have created innovative programs in computer science, engineering, and/or entrepreneurship. This program is inspired and funded by philanthropist and entrepreneur Paul G. Allen. We’re doing this to drive home the message to parents, teachers, administrators, and policymakers that there is tremendous value in this type of teaching. We believe strongly that there are a wide range of students who would flourish if they had the opportunity to learn from teachers like these in settings like theirs. In fact, the $25,000 award is just the beginning for this program. We really want to spread the word of their innovations by distributing a range of education materials for a wide variety of audiences.

  • There are ADE microdocumentaries to inspire parents, administrators, and students to think about innovative curriculum.
  • The free Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Guides are a collection of teaching materials created from the ADE Awardees and designed specifically for teachers around the country to adapt and take into their classrooms.
  • We’ll also be calling for applications for the DIY Grants, which are funds for teachers from a variety of school types, locations, and grade levels specifically to facilitate the replication of the DIY Guides.
  • The ADE Roadmaps are short videos full of ADE guidance and advice for teachers who are looking to take their innovative projects and create a program

We saw the 53 miles per burrito DIY project and it sounded really cool. Can you tell me more about it and the DIY grants?

This is a great project taught by Mike Wierusz at Inglemoor High School in Bothell, WA. Mike teaches Sustainable Engineering and Design and the story for how he came up with this project really ties into that theme. Overall, this is an excellent example of the way our ADEs find interesting ways to engage their students in learning through a straightforward question.

Mike was walking down the street and saw someone wearing a “53 miles per burrito” t-shirt and ultimately took the question to his class. Since Mike is really keen on bringing industry professionals into his classroom, he reached out to Chipotle to see how they could help answer the question. On top of that, Mike called a local bike shop to get a special wheel to measure variables. Mike then weaved in the sustainable engineering aspect by asking his students about energy use. In one project, Mike gets to bring together physics, industry professionals, and real world problem solving–and the outcome is delicious.

While this is a great project, we can’t wait to see teachers adapt this for their own classrooms. That’s a big reason why we have DIY grants for teachers to take these projects into school setting different from that of the individual ADE. We aim to get students in all types of schools and cities to experience these types of projects and this type of education. So, for example, Mike teaches at a comprehensive high school in a middle income suburb of Seattle. We want to know what it takes to adapt the project in, say, a low-income charter school in Houston or small rural parochial school in Wisconsin. That’s why we’re offering small grants to teachers who are willing to field test the guides in their schools and report back to us on the adaptations they made.

What do you want students and teachers to get out of these projects and grants?

Ultimately, we want students to realize that no matter where they live, no matter what school they attend, they can and should have these types of learning experiences. We want teachers to know that there is a network of award winning educators who want to provide them with projects and advice. We want administrators and parents to see the impact that innovative teaching can have and provide support and encouragement to their teachers and students.

How can teachers get involved right now?

We’re really excited to launch the DIY Guides and DIY grants specifically to help teachers who are looking for innovative curriculum. We encourage all teachers from any type of school to check-out and use the DIY Guides.  Furthermore, we want to provide DIY grants to teachers in a wide variety of educational environments. The DIY grants will help teachers adapt these projects and let us and the ADE community how they brought innovation to their students. It’s an exciting opportunity that we hope teachers will apply!  The DIY Grant application period is only open until December 4th, 2015, so go check-out the application!

Meanwhile, if teachers like what they see on the website we ask them to please share with their colleagues, parents, and district leaders. We believe that the teaching philosophy that our ADEs embody will appeal to many of them, and we’d like the program to help inspire them to act.

And, of course, we’d encourage teachers to join our online community and share their feedback at www.allendistinguishededucators.org. Teachers are also invited to follow us on any of the following social media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/allendistinguishededucators

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/10113153?trk=hp-feed-company-photo

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCToUu0GXARZq8rzQ8HgHLNw

Twitter: @AllenEducators

What’s coming next?

We just closed the application window for the ADE award. We got a great response and are in the process of reviewing them now. We’d love for everyone to mark their calendars for SXSWedu! We have two events there and hope that people will be able to attend. First, we’ll be announcing the ADE 2016 awardees a special awards ceremony. We definitely want to show the nation how important these awardees are and highlight their accomplishments at this event. Second, a panel of ADE 2014 awardees including Regan Drew, Scott Swaaley, and Mike Wierusz discuss “Why Your Startup Should Hire my High School Students.” It will be an exciting panel!

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