On June 21, physics teacher Bill Dunbar accepted recognition for his inspirational teaching style at the MIT Alumni Association Inspirational Teacher Awards. The event, hosted by Google at the company headquarters, awarded 33 teachers around the world—from Scotland to India—for their efforts in instruction and successful teaching methods. As one of only two Northern Californians to receive the distinguishment, Dunbar is considered amongst group of teachers that Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) strives to recognize and celebrate.
At the event there was a short presentation by MIT professor Dick Yue and MIT Opencourseware Executive Director Cecilia d’Oliveira on the topic of open courseware. MIT recently offered an online class called 6.002x to students from all over the world, ages 17-65. The course was an online spin-off of the electrical engineering-computer science introductory course MIT students elect to take, 6.002. After the open education presentation, Dunbar and Jim Bigelow, a teacher at Shasta High School, accepted their awards.
After receiving the award, Dunbar admitted the award—and the turnout—was a pleasant surprise. “It was really nice for me; I was nominated by a student Elliot Akama-Garren, and it was a big surprise for me. I didn’t say anything to anybody about the award, but several of my students showed up at my awards which surprised me.” When asked about his secret to success, Dunbar responded, “I don’t have any secrets. I just really enjoy what I do, and I like working with young people, and engineering and physics. I’m just really lucky that I have a job that’s really fun for me.”
To decide which teachers receive awards, MIT asked current students who, in their academic career, inspired them. Hundreds of students accordingly nominate inspirational teachers, and MIT faculty review each case. Gunn alumnus and current MIT student Elliot Akama-Garren recommended and ultimately nominated Dunbar for the award through a video. In the video, Akama-Garren attributed much of his passion for academics to Dunbar. “quote quote quote,” Akama-Garren said in the video.
Akama-Garren was not alone in this feeling, as numerous students of Dunbar’s attended the event at Google Inc. Senior Andrew Gerber-Duffy, a student of Dunbar and a part of Gunn Robotics Team (GRT) agrees with Akama-Garren. Gerber-Duffy attributes much of Dunbar’s teaching success to outside of the academic field. “Mr. Dunbar is an amazing teacher who is known for letting the students on GRT take the lead. But he’s more than just a moderator: he’s so knowledgeable on the things that interest us, and he inspires us to not only be a better team, but to learn more and become better students as well,” Gerber-Duffy wrote in an email. “The amount of knowledge he was able to share with us was incredible, and I was always waiting to come back the next day ready to do more!”
According to the official website for the award, distribution and recognition began in 2007 and has since awarded 165 teachers globally. The goal of the award is to “recognize outstanding secondary school teachers who inspire in their students a love of learning, encourage them to pursue excellence, and give them the skills and enthusiasm they need to make a positive difference in the world.”