“Students are capable of much more than adults think. Students are capable of much more than they think. It is all a matter of getting the brains off of the metaphorical couch and then getting out of the way.” – Ian Fogarty, Canada
Ian Fogarty loves science. And as the chemistry and physics teacher at Riverview High School – the school he grew up in (his father was a teacher at this same school) – he is sharing his passion with the students of his hometown community. In fact, he’s now teaching with his brother. But he became an educator not simply because it was in his blood, but also by seeing first-hand how transformative education could be.
“One of my wrestlers was able to overcome serious family and personal issues because of my involvement,” said Fogarty. “He attended college BECAUSE of wrestling. He attended college FOR his education. He broke the cycle of drugs and abuse. I signed up for my Bachelors in Education the day after he applied for college.”
Fogarty’s unique approach has carried over into his classroom – one that promotes a solid work ethic and also strives to capture students’ imagination with lively examples, such as videos of bike skids, snowboarding styles, kayak rolls and billiard ball breaks – has garnered global recognition. At the 2010 Global Forum in Cape Town, Forgarty was named second runner-up for his work on “Xenotransplant Debate,” a program designed to encourage complex thought through a semi-fictitious, bioethical issue debate. Students study the science around organ transplant and viruses, create a fictitious political party, promote their point of view, and hold a town hall debate with members of the community. Communication and collaboration between group members is paramount for consistent and efficient work using Onenote and SharePoint.
Today, Fogarty shares his philosophy, his hope for the future of education, and his key to success as a teacher. Enjoy!
What is your philosophy as an educator?
It is not about how much information they possess, but how many problems they can solve, even if some content has to be neglected.
What type of learning environment do you create in your classroom?
Students always do problems they have never seen before either as a word problem, a lab or other odd activity.
Why is using technology an important part of your educator toolkit?
Technology allows me to ask interesting questions, allows students to find foundational knowledge necessary for thinking about the problem, and allows them to collect data and share their ideas with each other and the community at large.
Explain how technology has changed education for you?
I am changing from a content deliverer to a question poser.
What are three things every student must have in order to be successful?
Students must have “stick-to-it-ness” or grit.
Students must have curiosity.
Students must have work ethic.
What is your biggest pet peeve as an educator?
My biggest pet peeve is when educators are trying to do good things for kids and learning, but are blocked by a policy or a system.
Where do you find inspiration and new ideas for the classroom?
Inspiration comes from talking with students and teachers. Talking to the teachers in my own school is important to take advantage of our local situation. It is EQUALLY important to talk to teachers outside of my school to avoid the status quo and for different perspectives. Networks like Partners In Learning are crucial for planting seeds of inspiration.
What lessons have your students taught you?
Students are capable of much more than adults think. Students are capable of much more that they think. It is all a matter of getting the brains off of the metaphorical couch and then getting out of the way.
What is your key to success?
I am confident enough to try things, but humble enough to listen and watch. My father, who is a master teacher, says that to be a good teacher you have to beg, borrow, steal and share.
About Ian Fogarty
- Where did you grow up (home town)? Riverview, NB, Canada
- What university or college did you attend? What subject did you major in? Mount Allison University: Bsc in Chemistry
- What are your personal interests or hobbies outside of education? Outdoor education such as hiking, kayaking, rock climbing.
- If you weren’t in education, what would you be doing? Designing Anticancer Radiopharmaceuticals.
- What is your favorite food served in the school cafeteria? Hot Chicken Wraps with Chocolate Milk.
- What’s one piece of technology in your classroom that you can’t live without? It is a toss-up between my probeware and laptops and my five student-centered SMARTBoards.
- If you had to write something on the chalkboard 100 times what would it be? “There IS a cure for baldness.”
- If you could be on the cover of a magazine which would it be? “Bosley Hair Restoration”
- Who was your favorite educator and why? My dad. He had balance between content and attitude. It is all about the learner. All the other things are just distractions.
- What is the worst excuse you’ve heard for not completing an assignment? I’m sorry I skipped your class and do not have my work done. I was studying inclined planes and coefficient of friction on the ski hill and broke my leg.
- What subject did you like the most in school and why? I loved the sciences. A great combination of facts, thought, puzzles, and hands-on.
- What subject did you like the least in school and why? Languages. It was difficult. As an adult, I regret not working harder at them. As a result, literacy is a VERY important part of my class.
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