Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

What are The Teacher Innovator Awards?

December 14, 2016
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The 2016 Teacher Innovator Award Winners: Far Back: Scott Weiler. From Left to right: Fabian Reid, Catherine Turso, George Hademenos, Jill Badalamenti, Cindy Lewis, Leon Tynes, Tracie Adams, Maureen Foelkl. (Unable to attend: Jessica Klass)

Next year, 2017, will mark the third year for the Teacher Innovator Awards, a program sponsored by The Henry Ford and Litton Entertainment, the producers of The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation. This contest recognizes teachers who are innovative in the classroom, who inspire their students to think creatively, who are resourceful, and who make a positive impact on those around them from their students to their community. Ten grand-prize winners will be given an all-expenses paid trip to The Henry Ford for a five-day “Innovation Immersion Experience.” So what does that entail exactly?

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The 2015 Teacher Innovator Award winners. From Left to Right: Joe Morris, Donna Gradel, Linda Reimond, Lyle Crossley, Melissa Collins, Jamie Ewing, Saba Ghole, Mark Suter, Wrayna Fairchild, Laura Bradley. (Unable to attend: Bobby Moore.)

Well, for five days the winners will explore the grounds of The Henry Ford. They will be treated to curator-led tours of The Henry Ford where they will learn about innovation through the lens of manufacturing as they can build a Model-T, exploration as they learn about the early days of airplanes, automobile, and trains, and social change where they can hear the story of Rosa Parks while sitting on the very bus where she helped start the Civil Rights movement. These and countless other artifacts from mammoth steam engines from the early Industrial Revolution to Henry Ford’s personal violin collection await our guests every day.

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The 2016 winners building a Model-T within Henry Ford Museum.

They will traverse Greenfield Village where one can truly see how those in the past lived as the homes of innovative luminaries, such as the Wright Brothers, are open to the public. They can visit a working farm, watch as glass is blown in our own glass shop, ride a Model T or take a train ride around the village. They can experience firsthand the spirit of innovation which was needed for society to progress.

“…The Henry Ford helps teachers inspire their students to be the same kind of innovative, risk-taking, hands-on, problem-solving people that made America so great.” - Laura Bradley, 2015 Teacher Innovator Award winner.

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The 2016 winners exploring the Wright Cycle Shop in Greenfield Village.

The winners will also get to experience the height of modern innovation as they tour The Ford Rouge Factory, witnessing the modern assembly line at work as Ford F-150s are built right in front of them. By studying the history of this factory our educators will see examples of innovation in manufacturing, industry, and society itself.

“A week at The Henry Ford opened my eyes to not only Ford’s legacy, but also to the power of teaching our students to be innovators themselves.” - Laura Bradley, 2015 Teacher Innovator Award winner.

Our winners will explore the archives of The Henry Ford, viewing artifacts and hearing stories not generally available to the public. They will explore Maker Faire Detroit, witnessing a yearly gathering of innovators from all over the area who come to show off their ideas, designs, and products. The winners can even take in a movie at our Giant Screen Experience if they wish!

Finally, to pull the week together for our winners, members of our Learning and Engagement team will instruct the educators in the use of our innovation curricula, giving them a new tool to use with their students.

“…I was truly inspired to bring it all back to my classroom and my students... The unit on innovative thinking truly transformed the way my students think and approach problems and projects.” - Jamie Ewing, 2015 Teacher Innovator Award winner.

When it’s all said and done, the teachers who win this contest will leave The Henry Ford with a number of gifts, a beautiful award handcrafted in our glass shop, and a new understanding of the concept and practices of Innovation. Most importantly though is they will leave The Henry Ford knowing that their efforts in education are appreciated and that they are not alone in the struggle to reform our classrooms as these experiences will be shared as a group, a group of equally innovative educators and future collaborators.      

“I now have nine additional educators I feel connected to for future inspirational teaching lessons”. - Maureen Foelkl, 2016 Teacher Innovator Award winner.

If you know an educator, or are one yourself, who is innovative, creative, and resourceful, please take the time to apply for the Teacher Innovator Awards.

The Henry Ford Innovative Educator award has been so much more than just being recognized. It is truly about helping to transform me as an educator, thinker, and problem solvers. It has inspired me!”- Jamie Ewing, 2015 Teacher Innovator Award winner  

Frederick Rubin is the Coordinator for The Learning and Engagement Department at The Henry Ford. Blog posts by Laura Bradley and Maureen Foelkl regarding their experiences at The Henry Ford’s Teacher Innovator Awards can be found here and here.

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