This month’s Spotlight on Leadership features Discovery Computer Science Teacher Greg Rusk. Spotlight on Leadership highlights APS staff to gather inspiration and ideas for our own career paths. Rusk is a career switcher who spent 15 years as a software architect in the private sector before joining APS in 2009. Rusk spent seven years as a fourth and fifth grade teacher at ASFS and Discovery and has been an ITC.
How do you keep yourself motivated and challenged to be the best teacher you can be?
I find daily motivation by staying anchored in developing learning relationships with students. When I think back on my life as a student, I clearly remember those individual teachers who seemed to take a genuine interest in my well being as not just a learner, but also as a developing young adult. That level of caring fueled my interest in becoming a lifelong learner, and eventually a teacher myself. The teaching role goes way beyond subject expertise.
Name a leader or mentor who inspired you/made a difference in your career and why.
There are many excellent leaders in APS, with different leadership styles. That variety makes APS a fun place to work, but I’ve realized in my years at APS that there are even more leaders who are not on an official org chart. These individuals genuinely care about people and the success of learning. Anytime I attend a district-wide professional development event, I’m blown away by the number of experts and grassroots leaders that we have. I’ve only worked at two schools, and I wish there was more time in a career to work with all of these individuals.
What makes APS special? Why is your role so important for students, the school, APS as a whole?
What I’ve noticed working in APS is that if you have a reasonable idea to try something for the betterment of students, you can make it happen. I’ve experienced and witnessed this process at the micro-level in individual schools, and at the macro-level across APS. APS encourages an entrepreneurial spirit. For me, coming from the commercial world 10 years ago, this was a surprising discovery about the education field. I held an outsider’s misconception that school systems were rigid and not open to new ideas. While there is rigidity in some aspects of education, if you build up a solid case, present it to the right people, and give it time to grow, an idea can take off here in APS.
As one most recent example, a colleague and I developed a case for starting a computer science class at the elementary level. It took about 6 months, but we walked the idea through school administration and district administration, with a final approval from the school board. The entire journey was filled with leaders guiding us through the process.
This new computer science course helps students at a very early age (Pre-K to 5th grade) learn how to use technology to create solutions. Most elementary students will find exposure to STEAM lessons in their learning, but this computer science course is unique because it goes deep into the technology and engineering aspects of STEAM. This type of exposure usually begins in middle school, but by then, students have already started to develop opinions about technology and engineering as a learning field and possible career. Through early exposure, students will gain confidence and be open to exploring advanced technology further.