What Teachers are Saying about their Fellowship Experience

Thirty educators from 15 Oakland schools and institutions have been working all school year to learn about the Agency by Design framework and pursue personal inquiries in maker-centered learning. Here are what a few of them have to say about their experience and the impact of the fellowship has had on their classroom practice and learners.   

“My students, using the Agency by Design framework have had the opportunity to engage in maker-centered learning AND we have together been able to explore those impacts. Students have connected more to their school work (increased authenticity), have felt an increased sense of accomplishment and more concrete vision of community at Grass Valley.” - Roxanne Martinez, Resource Teacher/Education Specialist, Grass Valley Elementary School

“This fellowship and the Agency by Design framework has had a profound impact on my instructional practice, leadership, and vision for my school. The two most important aspects are being able to learn what teachers are doing at other schools and gain ideas and partnership, as well as learning about the Agency by Design framework. Having the support of the fellowship and the team makes sure I am going beyond just doing making to creating maker identities in incorporating thinking. Last year I feel the maker instruction I did was more about doing projects without the deeper thinking.” - Annika Mcpeek, Lead Science & Engineering Teacher, Hoover Elementary School

“This time spent in professional development has been critical for me, as these fellow educators have become my thinking partners and have supported me in developing teaching strategies that are engaging and center the student." - Crystal Barajas Barr, Art & STEAM Teacher, Urban Promise Academy Middle School

“I’m here for the people! The network and peer-learning has been invigorating.” Clayton Evans, 11th grade Physics Teacher, McClymonds High School

“My students are seeing themselves as independent learners and managers of their own learning and time because of some of the routines put in plan in our room. The framework has guided me in redirecting authority to make that happen.” - Theresa Sanders, 3rd Grade Teacher, Redwood Heights Elementary School

“[During the fellowship] is when I think about going beyond the cultural responsiveness and Ethnic Studies to marry empowering content with empowerment practices.” - Reina Cabezas, CTE Engineering Coach & Teacher, OUSD

Learn more from the fellows directly at the Culmination Event on May 5th!


Experience how teacher action research into Maker-Centered Learning is transforming classrooms and schools in Oakland!

Teacher Action Research in Maker-Centered Learning
Saturday, May 5, 9am-12pm
at Lighthouse Community Charter School
444 Hegenberger Rd, Oakland, CA 94621

Breakfast will be served, followed by presentations in:

  • Leadership & Coaching: How do we ignite and support maker-centered learning at our school sites?

  • Curriculum: How can the Agency by Design framework be integrated into my unit plans?  

  • Instructional Strategies: What tools and structures can we create that support strategies like “Re-directing Authority” and “Co-Inspiration”?

  • Thinking Routines and Maker Capacities: How do the Agency by Design thinking routines promote looking closely, exploring complexity, and finding opportunity with my learners?

  • Maker Identity: What does it mean to be a maker? Am I a maker? Do my students see themselves as makers?

  • Systems Thinking: How does current maker/engineering curricula, and professional development, disrupt or perpetuate systems of oppression for students of color?

This community of thirty educators represents 15 different Oakland schools and institutions. To learn more about our individual fellows check out the Who We Are section of our website.  

See presentations from educators representing the following schools and institutions:

Alliance Academy Middle School, OUSD
Burckhalter Elementary School, OUSD
Grass Valley Elementary School, OUSD
Lighthouse Community Charter School, Oakland
Lodestar Charter School, Oakland
McClymonds High School, OUSD
Oakland International High School, OUSD
Park Day School, Oakland     
Integrated Learning Specialist Program, ACOE
CodeNext Oakland
Castlemont High School, OUSD
Hoover Elementary School,  OUSD
Redwood Heights Elementary School, OUSD
Urban Promise Academy Middle School, OUSD
Urban Montessori Charter School, OUSD

Free and open to the public. Breakfast will be served.
RSVP here on Eventbrite.

We hope to see you there!

Behind the Scenes With Our Innovative Teacher Leaders

This past year thirty Agency by Design Oakland fellows have engaged in a city-wide professional learning community focusing on teacher research in Maker-Centered Learning. These dedicated educators have experienced a deep dive into the Agency by Design framework, outlined in the book, Maker-Centered Learning: Empowering Young People to Shape Their Worlds. They have then each chosen a personal inquiry to pursue in a variety of topics, including Leadership & Coaching, Curriculum, Instructional Strategies, Thinking Routines and Maker Capacities, Maker Identity, and Systems Thinking.

The Leadership & Coaching Inquiry Group, which is comprised of seven educators from five distinctly different schools (Castlemont High School, Alliance Academy of Integrated Learning, Park Day School, McClymonds High School, and Urban Montessori Charter School), is tackling the question: How do we ignite and support maker-centered learning at our school sites?

From leading professional development sessions, to one-on-one coaching, to thinking deeply about how Agency by Design ideas connect to school-wide goals, these educators are going above and beyond their job responsibilities in order to have a greater impact on the students they serve. Below are just a few of their inquiries and reflections—don’t miss the chance to learn more at the Culmination Event on May 5th! More Info Here.

Clayton Evans

“My colleague and I led a professional development experience for our staff during the January in-service day. It brought our staff alive in a way we haven’t been all year, and teachers are excited about making it happen in their rooms. One teacher mentioned that what we are doing currently is not working, and making is something we should take seriously as a pedagogical shift that will increase engagement and achievement for our young people.

- Clayton Evans
Physics and Engineering Teacher; Engineering Pathway Director; Science Department Head, McClymonds High School, OUSD


I am curious to discover best practices for documentation and explore which methods of documentation best serve our adult staff. [One thing I’ve done is] I started implementing PIctures of Practice during the first 10, then 20, and now 30 minutes of each full staff meeting on Wednesdays!

- Gretchen Baglyos, 
Arts Integration Specialist and Choir Teacher, Alliance Academy Middle School, OUSD


How might Agency by Design (the cognitive routines specifically), be a tool for teachers to work collectively to develop as Culturally Responsive educators that create engaging & relevant classrooms in partnership with students as independent learners?

- Tim Bremner, Pathway Coach, Castlemont High School, Sustainable Urban Design Academy (SUDA) Community Health Equity Academy (CHEA), OUSD

 What do you think makes a good leader? What makes a transformational leader? At our most recent fellowship meeting the Leadership & Coaching Inquiry Group reflected through a chalk talk after having read Chapter 2 in  The Art of Coaching Teams , by Elena Aguilar.

What do you think makes a good leader? What makes a transformational leader? At our most recent fellowship meeting the Leadership & Coaching Inquiry Group reflected through a chalk talk after having read Chapter 2 in The Art of Coaching Teams, by Elena Aguilar.

Learn more about what the Agency by Design Fellows have been exploring this year at our upcoming event: Teacher Action Research in Maker-Centered Learning on Saturday, May 5, at Lighthouse Community Schools in Oakland. More info here!

Creativity and Empowerment at Lighthouse Community Public Schools

“At Lighthouse, we really think that maker-centered learning supports our students in making their dreams a reality, and in thinking about solutions to problems for themselves and their communities. And then when they enact those solutions- it’s really empowering”
-Aaron Vanderwerff, Creativity Lab Director, Lighthouse Community Public Schools

The Lighthouse Creativity Lab works with teachers to give students more opportunities to make and tinker. The Creativity Lab hosts an annual school maker faire where students in elementary, middle, and high school present projects that they have worked on over the course of the school year. The maker faire functions as a deadline for students to aim for when working on their project and a chance to share a prototype of something they have created, or try out an activity with their community. Lighthouse started their school maker faire as a high school prototype fair and quickly learned that the event increased teacher interest in making across campus; it was a major driver in growing the Creativity Lab’s maker-centered learning program from being solely based in the high school to being a K-12 program.

“In making class you can express yourself. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t hard- it was just.. right. And it hit me that this was going to impact my life in some way.” -Sarah, Student at Lighthouse Community Public Schools

In addition to regular maker-centered learning activities, the Lighthouse Creativity Lab hosts Designing Making Experiences, which provides intensive professional development educators eager to integrate making-centered learning into their own practice. Participants in the program learn about ways making can be integrated into classrooms, schools and curricula, collaborate with participants and Creativity Lab staff to plan a project or unit for your classroom or school, and learn new skills and methods to complement their project plans. Two day workshop intensives will next be offered in February 2018.

“Maker-centered learning supports a deeper conceptual understanding, so we really appreciate the power of maker-centered learning and hands-on learning when it comes to understanding mathematical ideas, or a scientific idea, or understanding civics and how the world around us works.” -Aaron Vanderwerff, Creativity Lab Director, Lighthouse Community Public Schools


Lighthouse Community Public Schools are located in Oakland, California and include two contiguous schools- Lighthouse Community Charter School and Lodestar. The schools serve elementary, middle, and high school students.

Agency by Design Oakland Culmination May 2017

On May 24, 2017 Agency by Design Oakland concluded a one year fellowship with a group of amazing educators. We celebrated at Chapter 510 in downtown Oakland, reconvening in the location where we began the fellowship the year before.

The event welcomed teachers, community members and students. Teacher fellows showcased artifacts, visual documentation, and videos from the inquiry work they completed over the year. Researchers from Project Zero at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education described the research process that coincided with the year and drove the inquiries that educators were trying out in their classrooms. The overarching research questions for the 2016-2017 year were:

  • How can learners make visible their ability to look closely, explore complexity, and find opportunity?

  • How can teachers qualitatively measure students’ performance within the realm of these three core maker capacities?

  • How can we collaborate with students and teachers to design a suite of practical documentation and assessment tools best suited to the development of maker empowerment?

During the event two fellows, Kennan Scott and Robbie Torney, presented Ignite Talks to give the crowd a snapshot of the leadership and work they’ve engaged in at their schools.

Kennan Scott, Engineering and Computer Science Teacher at West Oakland Middle School, presented on making computer science relevant in the hood. Kennan walked the crowd through the lack of diversity in the tech industry and described how he is empowering his students to see themselves in tech leadership roles. Kennan is also in the process of designing a new Oakland school, Coded Academy, which would focus on coding throughout the content areas.

Robbie Torney, Assistant Principal at Lodestar, a Lighthouse Community School, presented his ideas around redesigning schools to create more equitable education. He posed the question: What would school look like if it were built around agency and belonging?

You’re invited to this year’s culmination event, which will take place in the morning of Saturday, May 5th, 2018, location TBD. The current 2017-2018 Agency by Design Oakland fellows have created their own inquiry questions spanning leadership, assessment, curriculum integration, and more.  

Hands-On Empowerment at Oakland International High School

“The idea is that your voice can be heard. You can develop this skill that engages the community, but also there’s a final product that everyone can enjoy.”
-Mallory Moser, Computer Graphics Teacher and Media Academy Director, Oakland International High School

At Oakland International High School, which serves 100% newcomers, regular classes come to a close late May, leaving the last three weeks of the year to Post Session, where students enroll in one physical education or art based class. In 2017 OIHS received a Maker Empowerment Grant from the Abundance Foundation, which allowed for the creation of several multiple maker-centered learning classes, including Careers In Computing, Biking, Mural and Mosaics, and Bag Design.

In Careers In Computing students used Makey Makeys, Arduinos, and Rasberry Pis to get hands-on with computer coding. This was the first time these technologies were introduced at OIHS and at first students were confused, but the physical computing aspect of these technologies soon got them excited and engaged.

“I realized that our students don’t have enough opportunities to get their hands on different kinds of technology, and to not just use them but to write their own programs and think about themselves as agents.”
-Courtney Couvreur, Math Teacher, Oakland International High School

The Biking post session focused on ridership and bike maintenance. Students learned how to ride and repair a bike, enabling their own empowerment in a mode of transportation that they may be familiar with or altogether new. For many students it was their first time using tools, and taking apart a familiar object. As Math Teacher David Hansen described, “I think for some students using tools isn’t a new idea, and they’ve done it before. But for other students, a lot of them in fact, this is the first time they’ve used tools to take something apart and to put something back together. I think that basic skill and confidence is hugely important for a lot of different things.”

Students in the Mural and Mosaics session collaborated and created a permanent public artwork on campus. By learning and utilizing the design process, students learned how to work together, how to implement symbols in artwork, and learn the technical skill of making a mosaic. Students chose to represent butterflies in the mural to symbolize immigration. Alexis Calderon, a 10th grader, described the symbol: “We made butterflies because we think that they represent immigration because butterflies fly together to different countries. That’s the same as us, we came from different countries to this country.”

In the Bag Design class students took bags apart to see how they were made and learned to create multiple styles before designing their own final project. They learned different design techniques, how to hand sew, and how to use a sewing machine. As with all classes at OIHS the curriculum in this post session emphasized language development, with a specific emphasis on vocabulary and verb usage. But the biggest takeaway was being a productive maker. Says the Art Teacher, Sara Stillman, “My students have learned that it’s super easy to make something that they can use, which I think is super empowering.”  


Oakland International High School is a public high school in Oakland, California, that serves predominantly newly arrived immigrant students from approximately 30 different countries. The school relies on public funding, foundations and community support to keep their work going. With today's political climate and funding shortages, they need your support more than ever before.  Here's how you can help:

Donate: Funds enable us to do the work that we do. All donations are tax-deductible. Donate here.

Buy an OIHS Sweatshirt: The perfect gift to keep you warm and wear with pride. All funds go to buy much-needed bus passes for OIHS students.

Support an OIHS Teacher: Our teachers have listed project and supply needs on Donors Choose. All donations made will be matched during the week of December 8!

Volunteer: Can't give financially, but want to support us with your time? We are always looking for more volunteers! Check out our volunteer opportunities here.