Position: Fifth Grade Teacher
District: Muscogee County School Distrcit
Location: Columbus, GA
Eric was moved to go into teaching as a result of his own struggles in education. As a child, Eric had attention issues due to a lack of sympathetic support and meaningful work. As a teacher, his aim is now to give every child an opportunity to find their passion.
Eric’s school has a significant military population, being located near Fort Benning, the largest training facility in the United States. This means his school can be something of a “revolving door”, with many of his students moving home on a regular basis. A number of students also have learning disabilities, dyslexia, ADHD or speech-related issues. Eric has set himself the task of not letting these challenges arrest their progress as happened to him during his school years.
To that end, Eric uses a variety of methods to help his students’ enthusiasm take off. His class follows a design thinking / Project-Based Learning model that allows students to find out what they are passionate about and use it as a vehicle for achievement. As a Skype Master Teacher, his students have engaged in Skype collaborations with others from around the world, and it is not uncommon for the class to connect to several continents in one day.
When students connected to HIP Academy in Kenya for a cultural learning exchange, it soon became clear that there was much more they could contribute. Together, they worked on founding a 3D-printing non-profit to raise funds to build a school in Kimilili, creating a business and raising thousands of dollars in a very short period of time. With the success of this project, students also donated 10 class iPads to the students at HIP so they could create an iPad lab for the school. Other students have created 3D prosthetics for pets, served the local community, and worked with engineers to create a robotic stuffed animal to teach pupils how to regulate and share their own social and emotional needs. Grades have hugely improved, moving the school from 23rd out of 29 schools in the district to 2nd and 3rd places in reading and mathematics.
Eric has also given back a great deal to the teaching profession. He helps run a travelling teaching conference in the United States called Teach Your Heart Out, hosting three national conferences a year in major US cities with over 35,000 followers. He has been a Harvard Project Zero fellow, a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, the inaugural Empatico Founding Fellow and National Center for Learning Disabled Fellow. I