Teacher of the Year Marisela Ruiz-Gutiérrez with RAFT CEO Grainger Marburg
RAFT, Resource Area For Teaching, convened more than 300 education advocates and philanthropists on Wednesday for its signature event, Unlocking Innovation, a celebration of excellence in teaching. The non-profit organization highlights the work educators are doing to find creative solutions to difficult problems. At the event the audience was challenged to contribute to a growing movement of student empowerment through promoting innovation and 21st century skills.
Each year RAFT selects a leader in hands-on science education to receive the Robert Brownlee Teacher of the Year award. RAFT CEO Grainger Marburg presented the award to the 2014 honoree, Marisela Ruiz-Gutiérrez, a teacher at Valley View Elementary School in Pleasanton, CA. Ruiz-Gutiérrez began teaching fifteen years ago after a career in city planning. Growing up in the Central Valley, helping her parents to pick fruits and vegetables, gave her the resolve to go to college and use her professional career to advance communities.
“I chose to be a teacher for a number of reasons,” said Ruiz-Gutiérrez. “First, I sought to make this a better world for children to grow up in. I aspired to teach the way I wanted my own children to be taught. I also wanted to open children’s minds to the possibilities available to them if they dare to work hard and to dream big. Ultimately, I felt I had a responsibility to pay it forward and give my students an opportunity to improve their lives and those of their families.”
Guests had the opportunity to experience examples of the hands-on learning activities the organization creates to help students develop important 21st century skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, and problem solving. Since 65% of today’s students will step into jobs that do not even exist yet, the activities challenged attendees to think of possible innovations for existing technologies and solutions such as aqueducts and structural bracing.
“Innovation is synonymous with Silicon Valley,” said Marburg. “It is also the ingredient that fuels successful classrooms and prepares students for increasingly sophisticated future careers. By nurturing innovation today, we are preparing for tomorrow.”
A highlight of the evening was a keynote address and team innovation challenge led by Ramsey Musallam, director of inquiry and innovation at Sacred Heart Cathedral in San Francisco. Following an entertaining look into his experience sparking student imagination and learning, he turned over the stage to 36 teams of guests. Prompted to create the most effective catapult as a futuristic transportation device, teams scrambled to design, build, and launch their creations to gain a deeper understanding of RAFT’s innovative approach to education.
As a long-time RAFT member, Ruiz-Gutiérrez has continually worked to enhance her teaching curriculum through hands-on activities, which she believes are the best way to help her students truly learn. RAFT relies on community donors and volunteers to equip thousands of educators with these valuable resources.
Ruiz-Gutiérrez closed by thanking these supporters. “Entities like RAFT and committed individuals and corporate donors complete a picture in which all children get the time, the commitment, and the resources necessary to create their own brighter future.”