Making the City the Text at High Tech High

By: Tom Vander Ark and Emily Liebtag

Winsome, invigorating and inspiring are all words to describe Larry Rosenstock, Founder of High Tech High (HTH).

Without a doubt, this man has dreams and knows how to make them come to reality. The captivating carpenter who had a dream to start a school where learning is a continuation of the city or place where the school is located. Where students use what is around them and within themselves, to deepen their understanding of where they live, where they come from and where they want to go in life. The “place” is your “palette.”

Larry Rosenstock, HTH Founder

In this podcast, you will hear from Larry as well as Jeff Robin, HTH Fine Arts Teacher and Chemist extraordinaire (see his website for a glimpse into what his teaching is like), and Kaleb Rashad, HTH Director and cheerleader for all things related to project-based learning and human-centered design. What isn’t captured in this podcast or blog are the student voices, the incredible projects and deeper learning outcomes that are overwhelmingly visible on campus. If you ever get a chance, be sure to visit a High Tech campus.

“Make The City The Text”

In fact, Larry did make the city the text when he started High Tech High along with Gary Jacobs, developing it with a coalition of San Diego civic leaders in 2000.

Stumbling upon an old naval base that San Diego was begging for someone to repurpose, Larry decided it was the perfect place for a school. Rich with history and scars, this place would be perfect for students to build, design and work with their hands on integrated projects. The now thriving area of Point Loma in Liberty likely came to be successful because of the school campus.

Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 7.23.02 PM.pngStudents frequently engage in projects tied to the local community and environment, ranging from exploring the local watershed to recreating field guides of local parks.

Larry isn’t the only one with contagious energy and passion at HTH. All staff has a similar zeal and zest for learning, especially Director of HTH, Kaleb Rashad.

 “Fall In Love With Everyone”

High Tech High
Kaleb Rashad, Director of HTH

Imagine if that was your first charge from a new boss, the very first day on a new job–that was the case for Kaleb. Larry gave him those five words of advice and you better believe he is doing it. Good thing he is bold, vibrant and passionate, so this doesn’t appear to be a hard feat for Kaleb. His passion and dedication to learning is contagious. A long-time educator and coach, Kaleb tries to stick to these three commitments as a leader and in working with teachers at HTH:

  • Give permission
  • Give protection
  • Reduce policies

Jeff Robin, HTH Fine Arts teacher, describes himself as a “guider” rather than a teacher or a lecturer. He’s pictured below with information on the Stairway To Nowhere projects High Tech High students created. You can see this and many other amazing projects like it on his website.

Jeff Robin, HTH Fine Arts Teacher

Key Takeaways:

[1:10] Larry describes how to get started with a school like HTH.
[2:22] Larry talks more about the incredible art the students produce at HTH.
[3:10] Larry elaborates how HTH recruits, grows, and keeps teachers at HTH.
[5:10] Larry shares how they communicate the work happening at HTH with the community and parents.
[6:15] Larry talks about the students at HTH, the enrollment process, and what it’s like to apply.
[7:30] Larry explains the process that creates the high-quality work the students create.
[7:50] Tom asks where students get feedback.
[7:58] Larry tells a story about skepticism around HTH’s achievements around learning and how he helped clear that.
[10:07] Next up, Tom speaks with Jeff Robin, who explains the Staircase to Nowhere project at HTH.
[13:12] Larry talks about the culture at HTH and how they include advisory at the high school level to truly deepen the community on campus.[14:34] Kaleb Rashad speaks on the topic of starting up a school similar to HTH.

Mentioned in This Episode:

High Tech High
Staircase to Nowhere Project
San Diego Museum of Art
Professional Learning that Transforms: Meet High Tech High Graduate School of Education
Promising Practices in Deeper Learning and Equity
High Tech High: Student Engagement Leads to Deeper Learning

For more, see:                                                                               

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Emily Liebtag

Emily Liebtag, Ed.D., is Education Reimagined's Senior Partner for Systems Transformation. Formerly, Emily served as the Vice President of Advocacy at Getting Smart.

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This is interesting

Marissa Calderon

There was a reference of Debbie Meier and an article that was mentioned regarding Kindergarten and High School and the similarity. Can someone drop a link to that article/book?

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