Allen Distinguished Educator Program Announced


The Allen Distinguished Educator program demonstrates the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation’s commitment to education, focusing on reinventing the classroom for the 21st century. The Foundation is supporting pioneering approaches to engineering and entrepreneurship education because these disciplines have the potential to create transformative experiences for young people and give them the knowledge, skills and attitudes to successfully meet the challenges facing their generation.  

“We look to support the creative and the untapped. We’ve chosen each ADE because we know they have the entrepreneurial mindset to rethink education,” said Jody Allen, co-founder and president of The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. “The approach of every single ADE has the potential to create a life-changing experience for students – opening them to think in different ways, to be curious and turn newfound knowledge into action.”

While each ADE has their own unique approach, they share a focus on entrepreneurship and engineering education taught in more engaging, practical ways. They are putting to use integrated curriculum approaches, hands-on learning, human-centered design and real world problem solving, designing new ways to learn entrepreneurship and engineering education, and transforming the classroom experience. The ADEs are:

  • Regan Drew, Mead School District, Spokane, WA – Regan has led the integration of entrepreneurship into the school district’s core STEM curriculum. Now totaling 125 students with plans to continue to grow, the program produces “innovators, not just innovations” with a focus on interdisciplinary thinking, incorporating entrepreneurship, STEM fields, creativity and design thinking.
  • Amir Abo-Shaeer, Dos Pueblos High School, Santa Barbara, CA – Amir was inspired to teach high school students at his alma mater after working as a mechanical engineer because he wanted to tackle the challenges he had experienced: the inability of most traditionally educated students to transfer academic lessons to real-world engineering problems. His “Art of Engineering” program now enrolls 100 students per grade level every year, half of which are girls, and focuses on physics, computer science, art, engineering design and mechatronics through an integrated curriculum.
  • Mike Wierusz, Northshore School District, Seattle, WA – Mike has launched a Sustainability Engineering Design program for the school district, as well as an International Baccalaureate high school design course. The program focuses on developing students’ skills in real world projects, hands-on learning, connecting with industry, and norms of respect, creativity and action. The design thinking process approach that Mike has spearheaded is focused on triple-bottom line – people, profit, planet – approaches to STEM and entrepreneurial innovation.
  • Gever Tully, Brightworks School, San Francisco, CA – Gever is the founder of the Brightworks School – a private school in San Francisco – which works like an open laboratory for students to explore, design and create from inspiration to completion. With Gever’s approach, students are encouraged to take on rigorous and challenging problems with the immediate purpose of solving a problem – not passing a pencil and paper test. Gever is looking to expand his model to the Tucson Unified School District in Arizona.
  • Scott Swaaley, High Tech High, San Diego, CA – At High Tech High, Scott designs and teaches 9th grade engineering and physics courses that are focused on personalization, adult-world connection and a strong intellectual mission. As a former engineer, Scott pushes his students to challenge their limits, build their perseverance, and develop their resourcefulness in preparation for a demanding future in STEM. Thanks to a curriculum that helps them to be self-directed learners, 78 percent of students from High Tech graduate from college.
  • Glenn Corey, Novato High, Novato, CA – A former product designer and entrepreneur, Glenn brought his real-world learnings into the classroom at Novato High by helping to transform the AP Physics course. In one year, he had changed the class from one where hardly anyone passed the AP exam, to one where almost everyone passed. He also has launched a Product Design class – funding a design workshop with his own money – so that students would have the opportunity to unlock their skills in creativity and collaboration to solve real-world problems.
  • Israel Hernandez, Roosevelt High School, Los Angeles, CA – Israel helped to launch Roosevelt High School’s STEM program – a small school within the larger high school that taught engineering design courses with a focus on hands-on design projects and competitions. This program was one of the most popular within the school and by many measures such as high test scores, college graduation rates and success at regional and national STEM competitions, the STEM school was considered a resounding success. As budget cuts disbanded the small program at Roosevelt, Israel is working to bring his approach to the community through an autonomous STEM school.




Our education grants support creative educators who provide transformational learning opportunities for students, and promote rigorous academics, real-world learning, and community engagement.