Meet the BIE National Faculty: Mark Picketts

Every now and then we post these profiles of the people who conduct our PBL workshops and coach PBL teachers and leaders.


I’m currently the Director of Program Innovation & Professional Development at the Hamlin School, in San Francisco, California. I taught at all school levels before moving to administration, and worked in US Embassy Schools in Spain, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Britain, and the Middle East before relocating to California in 2012.

My Start with PBL
While working as a teacher in the Dominican Republic, I struggled with students who failed to see themselves in the work they were doing at school. Pushing a curriculum written largely by white men living in another country did not resonate with the student population that I was working with. This played out across a room of disenchanted, disengaged, and distracted students. Two colleagues and I felt there had to be another way, a better way. It was in looking for this better way that we originally found Project Based Learning and the Buck Institute for Education, and all of our careers were forever changed.

I of course did not realize at the time that finding a way to save the students in Santo Domingo genuinely also saved my career. For in those disengaged, disenchanted and disinterested students… was me - a teacher feeling the way his students felt, while sitting in my creativity-lacking courses. But from the first projects I used in my classroom, I got excited about teaching, about learning, and about the role I could have in the lives of my students. I hadn’t felt that way since my first days of teaching. It’s how I still feel when working with students and teachers, and what brings me to my work with a smile.

One of My Projects
One of my favorite projects was set up with a letter from an unnamed (and fictitious) NGO. In it, my students found out that they would have the chance to direct the philanthropic spending of a wealthy donor. The letter charged students to discover which was the “greatest environmental threat to humans today” and make an argument supporting their decision as well as direct the spending of the donation. Students presented their work digitally and orally to a team of Dominican philanthropists, the school board’s environmental board, and in writing to the EPA.

Grateful for the Opportunity
This teacher who was brought back to life through Project Based Learning is incredibly grateful for the opportunity to share his passion with other teachers. In every professional development session I learn and enhance my toolbox full of skills and take not only great facilitation techniques but also great projects as well.

The students of the world need Project Based Learning so they can discover the true joy of learning and bettering oneself through hard work and collaboration. With every success you will discover two ways to make it better, and bumps along the way almost always become some of the most intense learning experiences that your students will remember.


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