While it’s not unusual for teachers to have interests outside the classroom, seldom do they have the freedom Mac Taylor has to incorporate that interest into classroom lessons.
Taylor, who teaches math and science at Fusion Academy & Learning Center in San Mateo, uses his love and experience with Ultimate Frisbee as a tool to reach students.
The Frisbee can be used to provide a concrete example of physics principles such as aerodynamics, Taylor said. The Frisbee can be used to show how air resistance works.
“I’m into Ultimate Frisbee. It’s basically what I do with my time when I’m not at school,” Taylor said.
Taylor is a member of the San Francisco-based Ultimate club Revolver. He was on the Revolver team that won the 2010 World Flying Disc Federation Ultimate Club Championship in Prague, Czech Republic.
Dan Morgan, head of Fusion Academy & Learning Center in San Mateo, said he was excited to have a teacher like Taylor working with students because of his unique experiences as both an Ultimate athlete and his having worked as a mechanical engineer before joining the teaching ranks.
While using Ultimate examples may not come up in every lesson or class, having the flexibility to use it when necessary is one of the reasons Taylor said he likes the teaching model used by Fusion Academy.
Fusion Academy & Learning Center in San Mateo, which welcomed its first students earlier this year, provides an alternative way of teaching students in grades 6 through 12. The alternative private school customizes the learning to fit each student.
“Fusion is a one-to-one school. That means one student and one teacher in classes,” Taylor said.
By working with a small number of students one at a time, teachers such as Taylor get a chance to really know students and find out what works best for each individual student, said Morgan.
“Our teachers are not just teachers. They’re mentors. We want them to get to know our students really well,” Morgan said.
Morgan said students come to Fusion Academy & Learning Center for many reasons. For some students it is to accelerate learning, while others might need more personal attention to stay on track. But whatever the case, Morgan said Fusion Academy works to fit the student’s need.
Taylor said the one-to-one model that Fusion Academy uses enables him to spend more time on the things student is having difficulty learning and move quickly through material the student grasps easily.
Referring to a student who he had in a biology class earlier in the day, Taylor talked about the advantage of being able to engage the student for the entire 50 minute class.
“The curriculum can really be tailored around him,” Taylor said.
Morgan praised the uniqueness of the one-to-one model the school uses and said that having a teacher like Taylor able to incorporate a real world example into a lesson when appropriate was one of the reasons Taylor was named the school’s PERSONality of the Month for August.
During a tour of the school’s temporary campus, Taylor said that teaching one student at a time gives him an opportunity to get to know students on a level not possible in a traditional school setting.
“I get to form these relationships with my students because it’s one on one. It’s very personal,” Taylor said.