George Lucas Educational Foundation

High Tech, Higher Learning: A School Grows Its Own Teachers

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Randell Scherer: The whole point of the fact that it's not permanent or easy to edit is that you're supposed to experiment with ideas. You're supposed to--

Voice Over: Exceptional teachers who are continuously learning are critical to the success of High Tech High.

Randell Scherer: You're supposed to be stretching out. I would I love it if you're on the edge of what you understand.

Larry Rosenstock: What I like to see in a teacher is somebody who has deep content knowledge of their subject matter.

Teacher 2: 'Cause even if nobody reads your words, they say, "Gee, what a nice balanced document that looks like."

Student: Right.

Larry Rosenstock: Somebody who is passionate about their subject matter.

Teacher 2: No, no no. I like how it bounces back and forth.

Larry Rosenstock: And people who are very dynamic in their ability to infect kids' curiosity.

Jay Vavra: And you wanna check it out, write down some observations, what it smells like, what it looks like.

Voice Over: Teachers like these are hard to find, so High Tech created an onsite credentialing program, and later, a graduate school of education to train its own teachers and leaders.

Stacey Caillier: Finish up in a couple minutes and switch to the other person.

We started about four years ago, credentialing our own teachers, and offering an intern program so that we could hire teachers who we wanted and then they could pursue their credential through us, rather than going to a local university and kind of having things that weren't quite as relevant to what we do here.

Rob Riordan: This is a silent exercise and when it is over, we'll look at what we've got and make some comments about it.

What I'm looking for, and I think what we're all looking for is an adult who's interested in what and how kids think.

Randell Scherer: What else did you notice about Anna's writing? Mariah, take it away.

Student 2: Each topic she has is, if you like look at it all, it's a lot, but because she spaces it out, it doesn't seem as much when you're reading it.

Rob Riordan: So when we see teachers doing a demonstration lesson here, and they're engaging kids in dialog in some way or another, and they're asking kids the questions and probing and trying to get at what they're thinking, I at least think, "Wow, this is someone who we can work with."

Randell Scherer: Was there anything good out there in those blogs? Little bit?

All right, a lot. Okay, Isaac, get us started. What you see, man?

Voice Over: Eleventh grade teacher Randy Scherer is earning his master's degree at High Tech's graduate school.

Randell Scherer: A traditional approach might be to spend eighty percent of your time researching theory, and then only at the end, "Oh, now take this to the world." The grad school has been really an interesting place to be, because we start in the world, and then we go find out, "Well, what are the theories that really support this?"

Anthony Conwright: How do we visualize that? Samantha?

Student 3: With money.

Anthony Conwright: With money. So like, that is like money you owe. So when you're in debt, is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Everybody: Bad thing.

Anthony Conwright: That's a bad thing.

Voice Over: Anthony Conwright has spent a third of his life at High Tech.

Anthony Conwright: It started when I was fourteen.

I went to a really bad school, and my mom heard of this crazy school called High Tech High.

So you got it?

Voice Over: He was among the school's first two hundred students, and graduated in 2003.

Anthony Conwright: And right after high school, I started working at High Tech Middle, 'cause it had just opened up, and I've been here ever since.

Voice Over: Now twenty two, Conwright is pursuing a teaching credential.

Anthony Conwright: We'll work our way to find four plus five.

Voice Over: Video recordings are made of his work in the classroom and are used in evaluation meetings for feedback from his peers and from students.

Woman 1: Does anybody have clarifying questions?

Student 4: Do you have a separate lesson for subtracted integers?

Anthony Conwright: Yeah.

I have them do each-- this page in their table groups, and I went around to each table group and just checked in--

As a teacher, I don't feel like any of what's going on is about me. It's completely about the students, and that's what I love here, is like, everything is about the students, the students first, their needs. How can we make learning more efficient? How can we make it fun?

Student 4: So there's seven money slips, with the negative sign, so it's like to negative seven.

Voice Over: The graduate school of education is fully integrated with the life and work of High Tech High's K through Twelve schools.

Student 5: Point one, which is that line--

Voice Over: Helping to make this an environment where everyone, no matter their age, is a learner.

Student 6: And you go seven feet up from the top.

Anthony Conwright: Yeah, exactly. Nice. So, you're table group, you guys can talk--

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Video Credits

Produced and Directed by

  • Ken Ellis

Written by

  • Carl Bidleman

Coordinating Producer

  • Amy Erin Borovoy


  • Karen Sutherland

Production Assistants

  • Doug Keely
  • Neil Tan

Camera Crew

  • Rob Weller
  • Darren Kawasaki


  • Michael Pritchard

View all our videos about High Tech High:

Transformed by Technology: High Tech High Overview
A network of K-12 public charter schools uses rigorous projects and portfolio assessments to revolutionize learning.

The DNA of Learning: Teens Tackle Animal Poaching Through Genetics
Eleventh-grade biotechnology students use DNA barcoding to help save endangered African wildlife.

Team Teaching: Two Teachers, Three Subjects, One Project
A pair of educators are sanguine about their art, biology, and multimedia program.

Adult-World Connections: An Internship with Real Impact for Rescuers
A high school intern improves emergency-helicopter communications for San Diego's police and fire departments.

High Tech, Higher Learning: A School Grows Its Own Teachers
This school has its own master's plan for developing the educators it needs.

Taking the Lead: An Interview with Larry Rosenstock
High Tech High's founding principal and CEO speaks about its innovative teaching and learning model.

Comments (4) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Claudia Toback's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Am disturbed that the science teacher in the video about High Tech High is not practicing accepted science safety procedures for students working in a lab setting. In particular, splash rather than impact goggles should be worn ALL THE TIME by students as they work with chemicals. Also, there is an accepted way to smell any material, wafting the odor towards the nostrils. Who mentors this teacher?

Oscar's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

yeah, I fully support Claudia! it's impossible for a teacher to conduct in this way! He hsould feel some responsibility for his students! he's incompetent a little bit, to my mind

Bill Genereux's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I think it is an amazing paradigm shift; credentialing teachers in an actual school! I have long thought that teacher education needs an overhaul like this one demonstrates. Do the job, then learn the theory; instead of the usual approach where you first learn theory and at the end are asked to go out and apply what you have learned.

The place where teachers REALLY learn to teach is in their first classroom with real students, not in college lectures on theories of learning and teaching.

Ricardo Villalva's picture
Ricardo Villalva
Elementary Science teacher, El Paso, TX

Testing has overtaken the role of the teacher in our state. Creative, innovative teaching is no longer a priority .... only test-taking skills, strategies and data.

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