The singular power of educators cannot be underestimated. Many of us will remember that one teacher who totally changed the way we viewed our lives and who opened the doors of possibility for us. We human beings are social creatures, every day we have the opportunity to positively influence the people around us, educators more so than anyone, and we don’t need permission from governing bodies to do it either.
So in a world where education seems stuck in the last century, here are five inspiring people who are innovating education and positively influencing students’ lives for the better.
Kayla Delzer – Flexible Seating
Innovating education isn’t all about whole school shake-ups or the latest technologies, sometimes the best, most effective ideas are the simplest. US-based teacher, Kayla Delzer, has created one of them and her unique innovation in her classroom is something that any teacher can learn from.
Inspired by a trip to Starbucks, where Delzer observed people sitting in different positions and in different seating, Delzer decided to create a more relaxed, informal setting in her own classroom to suit the individual children she was teaching. Whereas before her classroom was the standard desks and chairs set up, one that has dominated education around the world, today Delzer’s classroom is a joyous patchwork of seating options from exercise balls, to comfy mats on the floor, to standing desks and low tables with cushions; in Delzer’s classroom there’s truly something for everyone!
Delzer believes that in order to learn, first you have to be comfortable and be free to move around the room. By learning from Delzer’s Flexible Seating innovation and paying attention to the students’ needs and preferences, educators can help every child feel comfortable and ready to learn!
Joe Grabowski – Exploring By The Seat Of Your Pants
It can only take one small ‘a-ha’ moment to change the path of a child’s life, and this is the concept behind science teacher Joe Grabowski’s innovation. Exploring By The Seat of Your Pants aims to engage children in the weird and wonderful world of science by showing them how much is still left to be explored and discovered. The world is brought into the classroom via virtual guest speakers and field trips by experts from across the globe. The resources are available for free so that any teacher around the world can access them and so every child can access the rich world of science exploration.
Now being used in seventy countries and connecting with hundreds of thousands of students, Exploring By The Seat of Your Pants helps educators to provide contemporary, exciting opportunities for their students. A new Ambassador programme aims to engage teachers even more, and helps educators to develop as leaders within their school board by training them to run regional divisions of Exploring by the Seat of Your Pants.
Vishal Sharma – Smiles In Education
In India, Smiles in Education focuses on innovating teacher-training to make sure today’s teachers aren’t being left behind. Despite there being a large amount of funding put into teacher training in India, results haven’t necessarily been improving, which is why educator Vishal Sharma decided to step in and do something about it.
Sharma founded Smiles in Education to create a training programme to help teachers to transform their classroom into a motivational, mutually holistic environment where both teachers and students can have a joyful learning experience. S.M.I.L.E.S. which stands for (Stress-free Motivating Inquisitive Learning Ecosystem), is a continuous, holistic teacher development and support program sustained on a long-term basis so teachers can continually improve their practices and wellbeing across their careers, and the programs are carried out by local teacher-leaders to make this possible. SMILES integrates mindfulness, positive psychology and yoga with pedagogical skills so that both the wellbeing and academic achievements of both teachers and students are supported.
Mary Gordon – Roots of Empathy
It’s easy to forget that developmental psychology is still a relatively new realm, and that our understanding of how to develop ‘character skills’ such as empathy hasn’t been fully integrated into our education systems yet – something former kindergarten-teacher and Roots of Empathy Founder, Mary Gordon, decided to change.
Through bringing babies into the classroom, Roots of Empathy helps children to learn about non-verbal communication in a safe, fun and ‘real’ way, so that they can start to understand the needs and desires of people different from themselves. Roots of Empathy instructors ask children questions about what the baby is up to in front of them, and children lead the discussion. The instructor never tells a child whether they’re right or wrong, they simply question the children in the session so that they can lead their own discovery and thinking, learning how to read the non-verbal communication in front of them.
Roots of Empathy aims to help end the cycle of abuse. Children who are abused or bullied often exemplify this behaviour and inflict it on others as they grow older too. Through her innovative approach, Gordon works to stop this cycle, getting children to understand the motives, emotions and needs of others to help to foster empathy in every child.
Stephen Ritz - Green Bronx Machine
We all know that eating a healthy diet has monumental effects on our brain’s performance and our ability to learn, however, eating a balanced diet is out of reach for many children around the world. In New York State, The Bronx is the unhealthiest county, with many children living with obesity, diabetes and heart disease. How can we expect any child to succeed in education and reach their potential if their bodies are already dealing with huge health issues?
Teacher Stephen Ritz decided to take matters into his own hands. Green Bronx Machine is a radical organization that evolved from an after-school programme into a full K12 model integrated into the core curriculum. By transforming an under-utilized school library into a Wellness Centre, Ritz teaches students about growing their own food.
Children attend sessions before and after school, as well as having the opportunity to take classes in growing food during the school day. Even the school’s most reluctant students have got involved due to having the programme fully integrated into their school environment. Student’s health and school test results have improved, and children even get to take vegetables home to their families, improving the health of their communities too.
Engage with other amazing educators and innovators through our HundrED Ambassadors community. More information here.