NTN Teachers: Agents for Impact

February 24, 2016

Christopher Ozias
Language Arts Teacher
Pinckney New Tech High School, Pinckney, MI

Christopher is an “Agent for Impact”, striving tomake education impactful for all his students by facilitating rich, relevant knowledge that engages.

From his first introduction to New Tech in 2010 when he visited two NTN schools in Indianapolis, IN, Ozias saw what he could accomplish and the type of impact he could have on students’ lives by helping them learn to communicate, think critically, collaborate and innovate.

Ozias experienced some amount of anxiety during initial training. “I thought, what have I gotten myself into?” he said. “But then I attended new teacher training and from that moment forward the professional development I have received has been excellent.”

New Tech training ‘models the model’ it’s not a “run in and run out” type of training experience. There is time to work and collaborate and do actual projects. “The training always reflects how students themselves learn, and I’m able to learn the same way my students do,” said Ozias.

While there is no question that academics are important, so is the engagement the NTN method brings to the school. Ozias, who has three degrees: a B.F.A. in Fine Art and English from Eastern Michigan University, an M.A. in Humanities from Central Michigan University and an M.A. in Educational Technology from Michigan State University, teaches English, Art and Technology. NTN enabled Ozias to meet other teachers, leaders and coaches who inspired him to think about teaching and how to best impact and inspire students.

The NTN model and support is about providing good questions and resources, not just answers. “The resources and customized coaching are critical and help support the adult learning,” he said. However, the most important support is networking and work with like-minded educators across the network.

Ozias’ advice to incoming new teachers: “Hang in there. It can be overwhelming at first, but itwill soon all make sense. And after the first project, it does get easier. Always keep in mind that Project-Based Learning (PBL) does not require you to throw everything out that you
already do. It’s a way of reorganizing what you’re used to doing in class to empower students.”

The NTN model emphasizes technology that engages. “If I was put into a situation where theinternet was not available all the time, it would be like teaching with my arms cut off,” said Ozias. “Technology for technology’s sake is not useful and is a distraction, but when
integrated as a tool for a larger purpose, it provides access to more information than you could ever get from a textbook.

“If my students did not have internet-enabled technology in the classroom, I would be the main source of information. With the internet, students can find things out for themselves. I shift to becoming a coach that teaches them to learn for themselves, rather than the dispenser
of information. The computer also provides tools for creating, which is a very powerful way to learn. Every time you create something, it is the equivalent of teaching someone else.”

Ozias’ personal mission is to “help my students become the best person they were meant to be. I want them to be independent adults capable of thinking clearly through whatever situations they find themselves, and be able to draw upon and learn the skills they need to be successful
in whatever way they want. I want them to shine!”

The NTN model focuses on Outcomes that Matter. According to Ozias, the most important outcome is Agency. “Agency allows for everything else. If a student has Agency, they are active learners. It students can’t learn, then nothing else matters. Students can be trained to repeat and perform, but that doesn’t mean they have learned. Learning comes from internal motivation and engagement. Agency is the foundation for everything else. When students graduate, people will care about the skills they have in terms of Agency – that’s the make it or
break it skill.”

As an “Agent for Impact,” Ozias creates projects that motivate students to think and reflect. “There have been many individual moments during my NTN teaching career where I felt I was making an impact on my students. Recently, I asked a class of seniors how they could make a difference in their community? Without being prompted, these students used this question as an overall springboard into their time at NTN. I marveled at this group of students who had now become reflective by nature. They all answered my question by noting how much they realized they had grown since they were freshmen. And I hadn’t asked them that….it showed me they could be reflective and organized on their own. They knew how to ask: “‘What do I need to know'” and “‘How do I acquire this knowledge?'”

Listen to the interview at New Tech Network Change Agent: An Interview with Teacher Chris Ozias.

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