"I think my students have taught me to always be curious and creative and I think their playfulness and curiosity in life is why I love working with kids and I never want to lose that." Wendy Gorton
|Wendy Gorton (Wendy Gorton ())
Wendy Gorton is the kind of teacher every parent dreams of for their child. She is smart, funny, continuously learning new things to share with her students and believes she can learn as much from them as they can from her. Wendy, a self confessed life-long learner, searched all over the web and attended numerous educational conferences looking for ways to make curriculum come alive for students. To create real life experiential learning that still ties into educational standards. She has been very busy!
She taught grade 4 in Los Angeles, grade 5 in New York and has developed curriculum, been an online teacher, a university technology specialist and research assistant. She has presented at conferences and webinars for CUE and ISTE and led workshops in Jamaica, Canada, the US, Austria and the Czech Republic on Google and IPad Apps in the classroom, grant-writing, project-based learning and global collaboration.
Wendy told My Hero: I'm particularly passionate about helping students connect to real-world research: I have been a National Geographic Hands-On Explorer Challenge Teacher in Australia, a National Endowment for the Humanities Education Fellow in archaeology, an Earthwatch Institute Education Fellow in New Orleans and the Bahamas, a PolarHusky Teacher Explorer in Fennoscandia, and a PolarTREC Teacher in Alaska.
So where did this amazing teacher come from? Wendy was born in Southern California and moved to Portland, Oregon for middle school and Vancouver, Washington for High School. She learned early on, the influence a good teacher can have when, in the 7th. Grade, her teacher Mr. Plitt actually read her 70 page detective story and became a writing mentor. She told me, " Now that I'm a teacher I realize how amazing it was for him to mentor me with something that wasn't even an assignment."
|Wendy in action. ( ())
Wendy followed her sister into the teaching field, getting her BS in Education and English from USC, where she was also Class Valedictorian. In her first year, trying to decide between taking film, writing and science, she volunteered with an organization called Joint Education Project, that takes college students and has them teach in local grade schools. She said, "I remember going and teaching geology lessons to a grade 5 class and it was FUN. Then I volunteered with the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium and realized teaching was a way to have fun with kids and help them find their spark too. I just love learning."
Wendy was lucky enough to be inspired by a field science Professor early in her time at USC. Wendy said, "She was a woman who did a lot of hands on science. Every week we would do something outside. This was the first time the light bulb went off in that I thought I could do science. So I wanted younger kids to have that light bulb moment earlier than University." Duly inspired that first year at USC, Wendy volunteered in Costa Rica to clear out the beach at the howler monkey habitat. She told me, "It's where I first caught the bug of international travel, on that environmental trip. We also stopped by a school and it was the catalyst for me to realize one could help abroad and bring that experience back to my students in the US."
Ms. Gorton obtained her MA in Ed Tech at Pepperdine University where her research focused on exploring how real-world science projects using technology increased student motivation.
So how did you discover the My Hero Project?
"I was at an ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) conference and I walked by the My Hero booth and got a sticker and heard about it. It was my first year teaching and I was excited to find cool stuff to do, real world projects with technology. I liked My Hero right away because it gave my students an outlet for using tech and also gave them a place to share the authentic work they created. A safe place to talk about heroes and heroism and what that means. So now it is exciting to be working with the My Hero Project to make an online collaboration space for teachers that is easy and easy to use."
|Wendy doing Google Live Trainings ( ())
Can you share the journey you have taken using the My Hero Project since being handed that first sticker?
"A very exciting part of the project for me was the film festival. I love opportunities to exhibit student works. At this time I was in India, working as a tech integrator, working with them on curriculum and that was when one of our students Arpita, made her video about the Karna Prayag Trust in India and it won 3rd place and she travelled all the way from India to attend the Film Festival at USC in Los Angeles. She was so excited and showed her film to the whole faculty and did a question and answer about her film and the experience of going to a real film festival in LA. It was very cool."
Why is the My Hero Project important in the global project based learning world?
"I think projects like My Hero are so important for teachers because they need ways to make student learning real. To share a global space, they are more likely to be motivated and interested and I think My Hero is an outlet for that."
How has technology changed teaching? Good or bad?
"I think technology really is transforming the way teachers interact with students. Technology has helped me move to students being collaborators and sharers of their work with students around the world instead of the teacher at the front and students in desks. It opens up resources and tools and opportunities for students to work with each other and it helps teachers connect their curriculum to real world things."
|Wendy Gorton Trekking in the Himalayas, Nepal (Wendy Gorton ())
What would you say to a teacher just starting out?
"I think I would say to definitely collaborate with their fellow teachers, locally and globally. I've learned so much at educational conferences as well. My first two years were such a huge part of me growing and working with inspiring colleagues. Attend things like conferences about what they are passionate about. Never stop learning."
What have you learned from your students?
"I think my students have taught me to always be curious and creative and I think their playfulness and curiosity in life is why I love working with kids and I never want to lose that."
If you had the attention of the world for 5 minutes what would you do or say?
"I would let them know how important our youth are and how powerful they can be in solving the world's problems. I think a lot of times adults don't give students the chance to work on real world issues and I think they are smart and they deserve a chance to be the solvers of some of our world's biggest problems."
Why do you think global learning is so important?
"I think that giving students an opportunity to learn about the world around them is important for understanding human cultures and finding out what they are passionate about as we move into the 21st. Century."
You have had many experiences in global travel, teaching and learning. Does one stand out above the rest?
"I definitely think my trip to Nepal with high school students from the American School in Chennai, India, last year was a profound experience in terms of physically pushing myself, as well as my students to go to Everest Base Camp. The environment of Nepal really showed me a new spiritual and cultural side of life. It made me want to continue to work with them and support them when I came back to the States."
What are you passionate about?
"Aside from kids and learning and science, I love the outdoors. I love to ski, snowboard, surf, camp, hike, mountain bike and enjoy almost every sport. I love meeting new people and being put in new situations."
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
"That's a good one. I definitely see myself still working internationally and helping out organizations . But I hope to eventually go back and get my doctorate and do more research about how educational technology can change curriculums."
You have met many amazing people already in your young life. Who is your hero and why?
"My personal hero is Lucky Chhetri, the founder of 3 Sisters Adventure and Empowering Women of Nepal. As an outdoors woman myself, I am so inspired by her use of training women in poverty of Nepal in trekking skills to give them the income they need to get themselves out of poverty, and I'm thrilled to be helping EWN in continuing to do this for years to come."
Thank you Wendy Gorton for walking on the innovative side of education. We will be watching your journey with the My Hero Project and beyond with great interest and appreciation.