Matt Austin currently teaches 9th grade Biology at Verona Area High School. He has been in this position for the past 14 years. Matt also serves as the Science department chair, and is also the boys assistant golf coach. During his 20 years of teaching, he has taught at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, 7th grade Science, AP Biology, Environmental Science and Integrated Science. Matt graduated from Lawrence University with a B.A. in Biology, along with earning his teaching license there. During the past 3 years, Matt has helped to implement a 1:1 ipad program at Verona Area High School, along with moving towards a more personalized approach in his classroom.
GETTING TO KNOW MATT
Looking back at your career, what is one thing that a parent, student or peer has said makes you unique as a teacher?
I reach out to my students to make sure they are doing well in both school and life.
When and why did you decide to become a teacher?
I went to college for pre med and my dad kind of discouraged me to go into medicine, which was the best thing that happened. I have always loved working with kids from a young age and had a natural ability to teach.
Please share with us a story of a time when you got to know a student beyond their academic performance where you think you made a significant impact in their life.
I spend a lot of time working with one particular student who has been having personal issues. From working with her on a weekly basis, it has been very meaningful for me to know I can help her through some of her struggles.
PERSONALIZED LEARNING JOURNEY
What is it about the personalized learning pedagogy you believe will have the greatest impact on education as we know it today?
For me it is the transformation of the students going from a passive learner to an active learner.
Can you tell us a story of a time that you persevered through a then-challenging situation which now serves as a great life lesson?
For me it was college. I finished my freshman year with a 1.6 GPA, which was a huge slap in the face. After taking a year off of school, I really dedicated myself to become a better student.
SECRETS TO SUCCESS
If you’ve transitioned from a traditional command and control classroom to a personalized learning classroom, what about that journey was the most difficult?
I had to try a lot of different things to figure out what worked and what didn’t.
What one strategy would you suggest teachers in personalized learning environments apply every day that would result in powerful outcomes?
You have to trust the process and the students. When you give up control, you need to trust that things are going to continue the way you want it to.
Imagine you are standing in front of a room full of educators – just like you when you started your personalized learning journey. They too have fears, worries and doubts as they struggle to find their footing. What are one to two key things they should focus on to ensure success?
It is not going to look pretty. We are all hear to learn and it is not going to be perfect the first time around. Also, I also need to be transparent, which is beneficial when speaking with parents.
Would you please share with our audience your “i am ME.” statements?
i am caring. i am passionate. i am funny.
CONNECTING WITH MATT