The graduating class in my hometown in Nebraska was tiny (about 75 students), but our ambitions were big, because we had great teachers who inspired us to see beyond the so-called limitations of small town America.
These days, as CEO of the Gates Foundation, I spend a lot of my time visiting public schools all over the country to learn what we can do to help teachers and students succeed. Our goal is to guarantee that every child, regardless of her zip code, the color of her skin, or her family’s income, has the opportunity to have a great education. When I step inside classrooms, I see innovative tools in the hands of teachers and students that have the potential to make this goal a reality.
New tools can provide teachers the ability to develop stronger lesson plans, collaborate with peers from all over the country, test new methods of teaching and learning, and provide more personalized attention to each of their students. Students also have all kinds of new technology that helps them sharpen their natural hunger for learning.
I think about how passionate my teachers were, and then I think about what they’d be able to do with the cutting-edge techniques and technology currently in development. The combination of those two factors is why I’m so optimistic about the future of education.
In previous weeks, our Reinvent a Better World series described how innovation is making huge advances possible in the fields of family planning, agricultural development, and vaccines. This week, we’ll focus on some of the innovations that are changing the way teachers teach and students learn.
The issue of public education in this country hits very close to home for me personally. My mother was a science teacher in my hometown public school with a deep devotion to her students. My daughter Michaela just finished her second year of teaching social studies at a public high school in northern California.
It makes me proud every day to be tied personally and professionally to the welfare of our teachers and students. And it makes me excited when I think about the ways pioneers in the field are reinventing education so that we can always get the most out of teachers’ passion and students’ curiosity.