I had the distinct honor of being named one of the top 10 winners of the PBS/The Henry Ford national Teacher Innovators award in 2011. I spent a week that summer attending the Innovation Immersion workshop, at The Henry Ford, which was the actual award.
As a master teacher of 26 years, with substantial experience in curriculum development (at both local and state levels) and educational technology integration, I have reached a point in my career where it can be very easy to coast or repeat what I have done in the past. I am lucky to have been involved in a new and substantial educational technology roll-out at my district, and act as one of the district Technology Integration Specialists. I end up leading a tremendous amount of professional development, and while this helps keep me motivated and “forces” me to be continually learning so I can train in a turnkey manner, sometimes its hard to find professional development that really gets me excited.
Burn out (or sheer laziness) is always a worry for me.
The Teacher Innovator award required me to really take a look at some of the ways I was teaching, and to do some serious reflection focused into a very specific direction. To be able to follow up that experience with a week of deep immersion at The Henry Ford was a truly outstanding and highly motivating professional development experience. The combination of meeting, talking and working with other highly motivated and innovative teachers (from all grade levels and subject areas), with added direction from Paula Gangopadhyay and the team at The Henry Ford, and with the amazing resources available at (and the wonderful setting of) The Henry Ford, was an incredibly stimulating (and led directly to my being involved in some very worthwhile online professional learning communities).
It didn't take much reflection during the remaining days of my summer “vacation” to realize that The Henry Ford’s facilities, its resources and the philosophy of Henry Ford himself, embodied so well by The Henry Ford, were a perfect fit to, and a wonderful reinforcement, of many of the philosophies I have believed in for some time - philosophies that are quickly coming to prominence in many progressive areas of education. The ideas of project based learning, cross curriculum and multi-disciplinary approaches to education and the idea of a switch from STEM to STEAM education.
Not only does The Henry Ford embody these ideas, but they have the resources, both educational and physical, to put these ideas into real world practice quite smoothly and effectively. I left with pages of ideas, and have only added to these over the course of the last year and a half, and the network of friends, colleagues and mentors created by a week at The Henry Ford has helped to keep the initial burst of enthusiasm burning.
I am grateful to PBS and The Henry Ford for providing me this unique professional development and innovative leadership experience. I am extremely happy that PBS and The Henry Ford are continuing to encourage teachers each year to think out-of-the-box, use digital tools to reinvent education and provide rich contextual tools to further teaching and learning as part of the award. For anyone searching for real-life, exciting and effective 21st century professional development, Paula, The Henry Ford, Innovation 101 curriculum, the OnInnovation web resource and the Teacher Innovation Award are a combination well-suited to meet that need.
By Keith Rosko, Fine Arts Department Chairperson and Technology Integration Specialists