Microsoft Innovative Educator Joe Fatheree looks to the future with his students in mind

Microsoft Innovative Educator Joe Fatheree speaking in his classroom.

When we envision the future of education, it’s hard to see us getting there without educators like Joe Fatheree leading the way. A Top 10 Finalist for the Global Teacher Prize and certified Microsoft Innovative Educator, Joe is one of the few who works with policy makers and education influencers around the world and communicates firsthand how the changes they all make affect students in classrooms, each and every day.

“When I work with people at Microsoft, I know directly how what they do is impacting students’ learning not only in my classroom, but in Africa and India and all over the world,” Joe says. “It’s a really rare vantage point that a lot of people don’t have and I do not take that for granted.”

Joe is currently the Instructor of Creativity and Innovation at Effingham High School in Illinois, where, through a combination of encouragement, perseverance and technology, he’s working to create classrooms and citizens of the future.

“There are teachers out there testing stuff and seeing how it works in real time, but the system hasn’t gotten there yet. In so many schools, kids are still taught in a Windows ‘98 environment, but they’ve moved on to HoloLens.”

Joe Fatheree holds a balloon to demonstrate a scientific principle.And it’s through HoloLens, the holographic computing and augmented reality system from Microsoft, that he sees the unfolding of teaching and learning in the years to come. Joe pursues the idea of being able to teach anywhere in the world, and having students from all over the world in his classroom virtually, interacting with other students without language barriers holding them back.

But no matter how far into the future he goes or how connected his classroom might be, his hook will always be getting his students confident enough in their worth, thoughts and ideas, that they’re not afraid to speak up or to fail. Joe believes this foundation, mixed with a curriculum that’s relevant to the world they live in and catered to their own learning style, is the secret sauce of teaching.

“For so long we’ve spent too much time on thinking we can test our way to success, but what we do here is create a loving, wonderful, warm environment where we incubate success,” Joe says. “It’s a whole different philosophy, but once you get those pieces in there, the kids just soar.”

He cites Microsoft tools for helping create interactive and interesting learning environments for all students, with Minecraft being at the forefront of his work. From interactive learning and testing environments, to his more advanced students working directly with teams at Microsoft to create technology for the classroom, it’s clear that collaboration and imagination will shape learning to come – though Joe admits he’s living a step ahead every day.

“My students give me hope because I completely believe they have the ability to solve the issues that my generation couldn’t,” he says. “When people ask me why I stay in teaching, I tell them it’s because these kids keep me connected to reality and they help me see what the future looks like every day.”

Join Joe and other MIE Experts through Microsoft Education on Twitter. To learn more about Joe’s ambitions and his atypical days, visit his first story on the Microsoft in Education blog.