In a panel at last week’s SXSWedu, moderated by The Teacher’s Guild Director Molly McMahon, a trio of two Texas K-12 administrators and a district teacher of the year from Georgia discussed the benefits of letting teachers drive innovation.

Spring Branch Independent School District Associate Superintendent Elliott Witney, El Paso Independent School District Superintendent Juan Cabrera, and Gwinnett County Public Schools Teacher of the Year Valerie Lewis have all seen firsthand how schools and districts can transform when teachers are given more input and agency.

But what exactly is innovation in this context? According to the panelists’ responses, it is “something that is problem-solving in nature intended to provide value,” anything that disrupts normalcy and embraces creativity, and efforts to strive to change your teaching style to improve engagement and/or to improve the opportunity for understanding and retention of content. The latter, from Cabrera, was the “less sexy definition,” he admitted.

“The truth is teaching is harder than rocket science because you have a lot of individually unique children,” said Witney. 

“If we’re bored to death, we’re not giving our kids the best of us,” added Lewis.


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