Microsoft founder Bill Gates came across something pretty extraordinary during his trip to Kentucky in November 2015, when he and his wife, Melinda, visited Floyd County’s Betsy Layne High School to participate in its classroom experience. What he discovered on his first trip in the Eastern Kentucky region was a simple yet contemporary approach towards teaching. He was particularly moved by the sincere efforts of school teacher Randy Thacker, who introduced the changes in classroom learning.
In one of his latest tweets, Gates shared the article How the Tough Got Going in Kentucky, which he posted on his personal blog on January 5. In the article, Gates recalls his amazement when he first stepped into Thacker’s classroom and there were no desks! It was astonishing for Gates to find out that this fresh style of teaching, directed by Thacker, encouraged students to actively participate in the learning process without just blindly noting down mere dictations.
— Bill Gates (@BillGates) January 6, 2016
Gates explains how a math classroom was covered in white boards and brilliantly painted with yellow and orange, compelling energy during the learning process. Teacher Randy Thacker demonstrated each aspect of learning in a very interactive arrangement, which even urged Bill and Melinda Gates to co-participate with students.
In his article, Gates writes of how the Appalachian region of Kentucky is a tough place to live in America. The region used to thrive primarily on coal mining, but collapsed after its coal industry shut down two decades ago. Six of its counties were grounded at the bottom in U.S. in terms of economics, education, employment, health, and even life expectancy. Gates mentions how Thacker, son of a coal miner, decided to stay and help the community by teaching students in a fresh way, despite the throngs of people who had started moving out of the county.
Gates also notes in the feature about Thacker’s notable endeavor in bringing up the graduation rate of the County by dedicating nine years to developing new and interesting ways to teach—the school’s graduation rate is now five percent higher than the national average! Gates shares that the bedrock of exceptional improvement in school education is great teachers like Thacker! With the kind of exposure that Bill Gates can provide, what with his 26.4 million followers on Twitter alone, here’s hoping that other teachers and schools will benefit from Thacker’s unconventional approach to education.