If you asked Reggie Duncan to describe his experience at the United States Patent Office's (USPTO) National Summer Teacher Institute (NSTI), he’d say, “NSTI transformed my entire perspective on how and why students learn and changed the trajectory of my entire career. I ran into NBA Hall of Famer Allen Iverson in the hotel parking lot, and he still wasn't the most interesting person I met that week. It literally changed my life and career path in very unexpected ways. The connections and knowledge I gained at NSTI catapulted my career into my new role years later here at the USPTO.”
As a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science teaching awardee with a Master’s in Elementary Education, Reggie has delivered STEM professional development domestically and internationally with a passion for always seeking out the next opportunity to develop himself further for his students. When he learned about NSTI after receiving his PAEMST award, which is the highest honor bestowed by the United States government for K-12 teachers of STEM, he was excited to learn more about invention education to bring resources back to his students.
Reggie learns about invention education, intellectual property, and more
Reggie entered NSTI confident that he was a “master teacher” simply looking forward to a fun, summer professional development, where he could further hone his mathematics and science teaching. Little did he know that his entire teaching pedagogy would change, and he would connect with a network of educators passionate about turning their students into problem seekers, problem solvers, and change makers. When Reggie first came to NSTI, he was not familiar with invention education or the abundance of resources available to educators through the USPTO’s Office of Education. The master teacher very soon discovered he had a lot to learn from USPTO patent examiners, inventors, and NSTI teacher ambassadors who were already implementing invention education in their classrooms.
One of Reggie’s most memorable experiences from NSTI was the Copyright Carnival, where he was able to embrace his creativity as he put into practice the knowledge he gained about iteration and intellectual property. “It honestly never occurred to me that of course everyone can be an inventor. I quickly realized students should every day be encouraged to see themselves as inventors, the same way I’ve always strived to encourage all my students to see themselves as mathematicians and scientists,” he shared.
Reggie applies NSTI lessons in his classroom
Reggie returned from NSTI and immediately began to redesign his classroom and dive into his units to see how he could best integrate invention education into his existing curricula. He shared his experiences about NSTI with any colleague he could find that would listen as he returned reinvigorated and excited to integrate the skills he learned. “I began to shift my teaching pedagogy as I learned the importance of how disciplines converge through invention education to equip students with the tools they need to become not just problem solvers but problem seekers.”
Reggie began encouraging his students to seek out solutions to existing problems, as well as to constantly make observations in the world around them about ways to improve or iterate tools, resources, and even procedures around them. He created a makerspace and applied for a grant for coding robots, 3-D printers, and materials for the school from the Armed Forces Communication and Electronics Association of a neighboring military base. As the pandemic hit and educators across the world were forced to adapt almost overnight to virtual learning, Reggie’s newfound innovator’s mindset got straight to work on how to keep his students engaged and learning in a non-traditional learning environment.
“The students had lots of questions about why stores were experiencing shortages on supplies like masks, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer. I saw this as a perfect project-based learning opportunity and the foundation was laid for what would eventually become our Entrepreneur Business Projects,” Reggie added. His students were soon tasked with designing inventions that would help solve the problem of resource scarcity while researching viral transmission, how supply and demand affects the market, and intellectual property basics.
Reggie says that not only did student engagement go “through the roof,” but he noticed math anxiety being lowered for students that typically had trauma surrounding mathematics. “They were so dialed in to their projects and excited to use the knowledge they gained about intellectual property. I observed an excitement and creativity emerge with my students I had never seen before. I had no idea when I signed up for NSTI how much it would change not just the lives of my students but mine as well.”
Reggie attended NSTI in the summer of 2019 and currently works in the Office of Education as an Education Program Specialist, where he plans, develops, implements, and evaluates major national educational projects.