Ian Fogarty

Riverview High School, New Brunswick, Canada


Ian  Fogarty

Ian began his career as a graduate research chemist in New Mexico, designing radioactive anti-cancer radiopharmaceuticals. His ambition was to go to medical school, but a chance meeting changed everything. Volunteering to coach wrestling in his spare time at a local high school, he talked to a young “illegal alien” immigrant to the US who had previously had few opportunities to advance himself. However, the possibility of a sports scholarship now gave him the chance to be the first person in his family to go to college. Realising the power of this, Ian immediately enrolled in an education programme to become a teacher.

Ian’s innovations as a teacher have primarily been in scientific education. His advice on educational technology applications is sought by companies such as Microsoft Canada, SMART Technologies, Nureva, SpongeLabs, and Merlan Scientific. In particular, he has used new technologies to expand and deepen scientific understanding, through creations like the SMART Collaborative Classroom, which uses interactive surfaces to further understanding in teaching settings. From the very beginning of his career, he has also combined this focus with a humanistic orientation that emphasises critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity and global citizenship. Ian adapted his schools “Essentials-Extensions” model that allows students to pace their own learning: most of the semester is spent without a grade, making it possible to receive a great deal of feedback before finishing a topic and creating space for passion projects.

It is perhaps the unique stories from Ian’s students that demonstrate the quality of his guidance. One student, Justin, had demonstrated hyperactivity in classes throughout his school career, but also cherished the dream of being an actor. Ian encouraged Justin to write a show about chemistry, which he then toured as a performance through elementary schools in the area. Years later, Justin now has the lead role in a Broadway show, has written a kids’ show for Netflix, and is developing a musical. Outside his career, he also encourages people to look at education as child development rather than exam achievement. Other students of Ian’s have coached women in Africa on sustainable farming techniques, and carried out 3D printing of prosthetics for amputees.

In 2011, the Canadian Association of Physicists awarded Ian their High School Teacher award for his work designing a new curriculum that included communication, collaboration and critical thinking alongside physics content. His contributions have also been recognised by Deputy Minister for Education, John McLaughlin. If awarded the Global Teacher Prize, Ian would use the funds to hire and support a champion for a new experimental showcase school that would be used as a center for excellence and serve as a lighthouse to the public school system.