Eagle Tech Academy PBL Chopped Champions

Eagle Tech Academy (ETA) Principal Brady Mullett is not one to shy away from a challenge. In fact, when asked about competing in the PBL Chopped competition at the 2018 New Tech Annual Conference (NTAC), Mullet proudly declared, “I’ll put my teachers up against anybody.”

A few months later, (and after spirited debate with the other NTN schools set to compete) the ETA staff made their way to St. Louis for NTAC to sharpen their PBL skills through sessions and coaching, and to show off their skills in PBL Chopped, a multi-round competition at NTAC where teams have 20 minutes to design a unique, rigorous project based on a few standards from different subjects.

After the second round of Chopped, the Eagle Tech team didn’t feel completely confident in the product they submitted to the judges for review. When they received their project back, with what seemed like mountains of feedback from the judges on how to improve, the ETA team knew there was only one plan for success – get rid of the bad ideas, incorporate feedback to the best of their abilities, and get better fast.

Spoiler alert – Eagle Tech took home first place and were crowned PBL Chopped Champions. Mullett and his staff’s competitive streak aside, when the chips are down, they don’t just power through and hope for the best – they slow down to speed up.  Their accomplishment reflects a culture of agility and collaboration where every voice is heard and respected.

“I have the privilege of working with a team that is all in. They understand instruction and culture fit hand-in-hand when you are talking about raising the bar for students,” Mullet said.

Mullett’s culture of raising the bar by putting an emphasis on thoughtful, meaningful feedback started years ago at a Leadership Summit, an annual NTN event. Mullett attended a session about feedback and  learned about the book “Tell Me So I Can Hear You.” 

 He said that he didn’t realize how ineffective the feedback system was until he started fixing it.

“Feedback is about knowing the receiver and knowing how they need to receive information. It really changed how I have worked out with staff,” Mullett said.

He started repairing the system by distributing a questionnaire to teachers to self-identify on a communication scale. The scale measured the way in which a particular teacher preferred to receive feedback. Once he started using the teacher scales to inform how he delivered feedback he said it completely changed his outlook.

“That impacted me because so often we assume that people aren’t good at receiving feedback. For feedback, it’s not just about the words we use, but how we say it as well,” Mullett said.

He said that feedback hadn’t been an effective two way communication system, but Mullett learned that it should be structured like any other conversation. Through the feedback session at the Leadership Summit, Mullett learned how to more effectively use feedback as a tool rather than a requirement.

In the seven years since Eagle Tech’s founding, only one teacher has resigned (for a career change) and another retired. That’s it. The rest of the staff has either been brought on as the school has grown or started at the launch.

“We spend so much time dealing with matters of the heart, instead of matters of the head,” Mullett said.