Distinguished Educators

Scott Swaaley

Respect and Guidance in Building Self-Directed Learners

3/31/2014

Respect and Guidance in Building Self-Directed Learners

3/31/2014

Scott Swaaley

Educator: Scott Swaaley
School/District: High Tech High
Location: San Diego, CA

Scott Swaaley launched a unique engineering and fabrication program for High Tech High that pushes students to their limits, builds their grit and develops their resourcefulness in preparation for a demanding future in STEM fields. Scott designed and teaches his 9th grade curriculum within the larger innovative context of High Tech High – a San Diego-based charter school system where education focuses on respect for students and their work, and fosters a capacity for self-directed learning. 

Scott’s 9th graders spend two hours per day working on engineering and physics projects that also connect to their math and language arts classes. Principles that drive the design of the course include: personalization – which helps students to connect with their teachers; adult-world connection – which engages students in the world outside of the classroom and brings in adult mentors; teachers as designers – this allow teachers to bring in and teach their passions, interests and perspectives as means to imparting their value on students; and common intellectual mission – which allows the diverse community of students and teachers a means to connect around academic and professional goals.

As a former engineer, Scott is focused on improving how we prepare students for STEM roles. But he also emphasizes the need for self-direction and perseverance to ensure so that students can be life-long learners, entrepreneurial thinkers and self-teachers, and are ensured success in their academic, personal and professional lives. Additionally, students are pushed to persevere and reflect, and by doing so address some of society’s greatest challenges through impactful and real-world applications of their engineering design skills and mindset.