Aaron Vanderwerff Named “Inspirational Teacher of the Year”

Aaron Vanderwerff Named “Inspirational Teacher of the Year”


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Aaron Vanderwerff.

Oakland’s Lighthouse Community  Charter School is turning out some great young makers. If you attended Maker Faire this past week you might have run into Lighthouse students displaying a solar-powered scooter (it started out as a go kart, but someone stole the chassis) and an EV truck project.

The school’s teachers are no slouches either.

This week one of the students’ instructors,  Aaron Vanderwerff, was named “inspirational teacher of the year” by Pacific Gas & Electric. The California utility company had previously awarded the school a $10,000 grant to explore alternative energy projects, i.e. the EV truck and go kart. Aaron, who teachers chemistry and robotics, helped his students use the grant money. He was selected from 64 schools that received PG&E’s “bright ideas” grant. As part of his award, he will get to bring his students to a San Francisco Giant’s game where he will throw out the first pitch.

Watch the surprise presentation of the award here.

He says he sees himself more as a coach than a teacher, supporting his students as they follow their interests. While he’s interested in science, she says it’s just a means to serve his students.

“My own person passion is to help students find their own passion and realize their own strengths,” he says.

Aaron is also working to expand making into the entire school’s curriculum. Currently, only junior and seniors at the K-12 school are involved.

“Making creates a space for kids to be creative and think outside the box” and and focus on long-term projects, he says.

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Stett Holbrook is editor of the Bohemian, an alternative weekly in Santa Rosa, California. He is a former senior editor at Maker Media.

He is also the co-creator of Food Forward, a documentary TV series for PBS about the innovators and pioneers changing our food system.

View more articles by Stett Holbrook


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