We all have that one teacher we’ll never forget. Upon talking to Joe Fatheree, you quickly (if not instantly) realize he is that teacher for so many people – past and present.
Joe has received many honors across his 28-year career. He won Illinois Teacher of the Year in 2007, was awarded the NEA National Award for Teaching Excellence in 2009, and last year was named as a Top 10 Finalist for the Global Teacher Prize. His television work has aired nationally and earned three Mid-America Emmy awards for producing and writing, he’s penned numerous articles and blogs and, to top it all off, Joe is a certified MIE.
And yet, as the Instructor of Creativity and Innovation at Effingham High School in Illinois (one of many positions he holds), Joe’s greatest source of pride comes not from what he’s achieved but from making others see what they can achieve.
“I look at these kids every day and I see a bright future ahead,” Joe says. “We just need to help them create a pathway.”
Over his career, that’s exactly what he’s done. From wearing flashy MC Hammer attire to reach the minds of kids with learning difficulties (back in the ‘90s, of course), to working with Microsoft to create technology catering for students and teachers by students and teachers, Joe’s career has been about pushing the boundaries of learning and encouraging his pupils to be the owners of their education.
“We create a culture that promotes creativity and innovation,” he says. “When my kids come in I tell them that the best thing I give them is the free time to learn, to build, and to create. I also tell them that the toughest thing I give them is the free time to learn, to build, and to create.”
When asked what one of his “typical” days might look like, it becomes clear there is no such thing. In Joe’s spare time he works with teachers all over the world, helping them understand that they have the power to push the boundaries in their classroom. He’s the Director of Strategic Projects for the National Network of State Teachers of the Year, and works with game designers and creatives from all around the world to see how they work and what knowledge they can impart to his students. No matter the shape of the ever-changing day, he’s a teacher doing everything he can for his students.
“Every day I wake up excited, because I know that every second of every single day I get to witness epiphanies from children. I have about 40 kids in my program right now, meaning I have 40 different lessons every single second of every day. There is no ‘same.’”
You can read more about Joe’s “Connected Classroom” next week and join a network of inspiring teachers through Microsoft Education on Twitter.
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