Dr. Michael Wilson is well loved in the community that surrounds the school at Glen Iris Elementary. He is known for the innovative strategies that characterize his leadership, the openness with which he embraces local partnerships, and his lifelong dedication to student achievement.
Wilson’s overarching vision is a school in which teachers collaborate within and across grade levels and content areas, lessons are problem- and inquiry-based, and students are investigating relevant materials and developing opinions and beliefs that they can articulate orally and in writing. To do this, he notes, teachers must be posing challenging problems to students that are based on current events and issues that relate to our local community and the world, even in grades K-5.
It probably comes as no surprise, then, that Wilson names the outdoor garden classroom at Glen Iris – a project that is supported in part through a partnership with Jones Valley Teaching Farm – as his greatest professional accomplishment. Wilson advocated for integration of the outdoor classroom across disciplines, which provides for multiple points of engagement and more investigative learning. “Seeing students come to realizations about food through research, reading, investigating and collaborating,” he says, “it’s incredible.”
Wilson’s vision for the school is part of the reason why Glen Iris continues to garner positive attention for both students and educators. But the success of the school isn’t all his: Wilson is quick to name teachers Lisa Long, 5th grade, and Curtrina Jones, 3rd grade, two National Board Certified Teachers who both regularly incorporate innovative teaching practices in their classrooms and utilize formative assessments to monitor student achievement on a regular basis. Looking at teaching through the lens of student learning and achievement is something Wilson encourages all of his staff to do because he knows how much is at stake.
“The biggest misconception [about our population of students] is that poverty dictates intelligence levels,” says Wilson. “Our children are bright, eager learners. What they lack are experiences that build vocabulary and give them a wider lens through which to view problems and solutions. It is up to us as educators to create those experiences for them.”
And so, he does.
This year, Dr. Wilson embarked on his second roof-top fundraiser to raise $20,000 for his newest idea: an outdoor Teaching Kitchen that will complement the already existing garden classroom. The kitchen will provide a venue for student and adult learning through an endless variety of hands-on lessons.
“Not only will we be able to cover objectives across the content standards through food,” says Wilson, a telling smirk on his face indicating an even more exciting possibility. “[But] there is also the opportunity to teach healthy living and environmental issues. For us, it is abundantly clear that the possibilities are endless.”
Want to contribute to Dr. Wilson’s vision? Click here.