Noah Zeichner, a teacher at Seattle’s Sealth High, was recently named World Educator of the Year by the Seattle branch of the World Affairs Council.
He was honored for years of work teaching classes in global education and more recent efforts as one of about half-dozen teacherpreneurs with the Center for Teaching Quality, a nonprofit based in North Carolina.
We asked Zeichner to talk a little about his interest in global education and just what it means to be a teacherpreneur.
Q: What is a teacherpreneur?
A: Teacherpreneurs are teachers who devote time during the school day to teaching students as well as leading in various ways outside of the classroom. Some are involved in policy work for part of the day, some coach or mentor other teachers, and some are technology or curriculum leaders. The key is: it’s a hybrid role in which the teacher is still in the classroom every day.
There are many opportunities for teachers to lead on top of teaching full-time, but the Center for Teaching Quality is trying to facilitate the creation of hybrid roles.
Q: How did you become a teacherpreneur?
A: I was approached by the Center for Teaching Quality a little over three years ago. The first year my hybrid role had a policy focus. Then I wanted to design my own role, one that would benefit my school and my students the most. That’s when I decided to focus on global education.
Q: Why are you so passionate about global education?
A: Global education means much more than just learning about the world — it means learning the skills needed to interact with the rest of the world. We face so many complex, urgent problems on our planet today, and the only way we’re going to solve them is if our leaders — and future leaders — are able to work together across cultural and political boundaries.
These skills — sometimes called 21st-century skills — include critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. While we know that these are the skills that students most need to be successful in the real world, they’re not the skills assessed on standardized tests, and that’s a big disconnect.
Q: What do you do as a global educator?
A: For the Center for Teaching Quality, I’m helping build a new global teacher network that will help teachers from around the world collaborate on their teacher practice and policy issues.
In Seattle, Seattle Public Schools is a member of the Global Cities Education Network, and I’m a member of the district’s delegation. The network includes 10 cities — five in North America and five in Asia and Australia.
The other cities are very interested in Seattle’s international schools — and not just the schools’ dual-language immersion programs, but the fact that teachers are thinking about ways to incorporate 21st-century skills into their instruction.
Q: What are some examples of teaching those skills from your school?
One is World Water Week, a schoolwide ideas festival designed and led by students. This year’s theme is plastic pollution as it relates to water. The big public event will be March 25 at Sealth High, where filmmaker and photographer Chris Jordan will share his work.
Another is a project that will put World Water Week out of business in a good way because we are embedding the Water Week content into the core curriculum. Last Friday, for example, all 300 Sealth freshmen went to 12 different places in the community to collect ideas, and do research for water projects. They are studying a local or global water problem and then must take some kind of action — raising awareness, fundraising, teaching younger kids, something beyond just demonstrating that they’ve learned the content.
Q: Could you have helped bring about such projects without being a teacherpreneur?
A: There is no doubt that the hybrid role has made this work easier. It has allowed me to work on a variety of exciting projects. This coming summer, for example, I am collaborating with Global Visionaries and a few other partners to create the first Global Leadership Summer Institute for teachers.