Marietta High School teacher Leon Grant’s love for teaching and youth influenced him to become a teacher. He has served as a Sunday School teacher, a youth minister, a pastor, an adjunct professor, and now a high school teacher.
“I prefer the dialogue of teaching to the monologue of proclamation,” Leon explained. “I love the learning that takes place in preparation to teach…I love finding innovative ways to teach new and old concepts.”
Each fall Leon’s first-year students are introduced to the engineering design process. This year students were paired in teams of two and had to design a lunch container for a school-age student in a country that they drew out of a box. Students had to work cooperatively and communicate in and out of class to develop a solution. They had to research the people for whom they were developing a solution.
The Engineering design cycle was taught in context with a just-in-time delivery model. Each step of the process was introduced as a tool to solve the problem. Finally, they had to create food models and a prototype lunch container to evaluate against their constraints. Students communicated their solutions and how they met the constraints via a 12×24 graphics ad and a 30-second promotional video. This approach helped students to see the design process as a tool for solving problems that is valuable whether you are an engineer or not.
In 2013, upon joining the Marietta City Schools family, Leon established the Engineering Pipeline at Marietta City Schools. The Engineering Pipeline is a K-12 engineering education initiative that provides resources, academic partnerships, and industry partnerships with deep STEM immersions across elementary, middle, secondary, and post-secondary grade bands centered in real-world engineering problems/projects. As the Engineering Pipeline Founder & Director, he provides vision and maintains program oversight for partner development, program funding, and teacher development.
The Pipeline hosts three major events each year: the Engineering Pipeline Open House; the Summer of Exploration Conference, and the Research Symposium. The Pipeline has developed deep partnerships with over 45 partners such as Google, Lockheed-Martin, and the American Society of Civil Engineers.
The Pipeline has raised more than $150,000 in grants and in-kind giving that has been shared between high, middle, and elementary school partners. The Pipeline currently partners with the Middle School and three elementary schools and has reached over 1200 students this year through various events.
The Pipeline efforts have been recognized at the state and national levels by the Technology Association of Georgia, DiscoverE, The Association of Career and Technical Educators, and the Women Engineers Proactive Network. The American Society of Civil Engineers is using the Engineering Pipeline as a model to reform their Civil Engineering Club initiative.
But, beyond the accolades and accomplishments, Leon is most proud of the connection he has been able to build with his students.
“My greatest accomplishments in education are winning the trust of my students, helping students discover their passion, and coaching students to levels of excellence,” Leon shared. “Classroom procedures and expectations are extremely important to maintain classroom discipline. However, I have found that I can lead students who trust me much farther than I can mandate students who don’t trust me.”
From having former students ask him to perform their marriage ceremony to being named the godfather of another former student’s child; Leon counts the impact of these long-lasting relationships as treasures in his teaching career.
Grant is one of three Teacher of the Year finalists for Marietta City Schools. The district will celebrate its award-winning teachers and employees May 28, 2019, at its annual Teacher of the Year and Employee Awards Luncheon at Roswell Street Baptist Church.