What does a lemon have to do with student empowerment? Why does a classroom have four walls? What does a shoe executive know about culture?
Zach Sokoloff ’07 addressed these questions and spurred ideas for unique education reform in Los Angeles public schools at a TEDx conference Saturday, April 7 at Loyola Marymount University.
Sokoloff, who teaches Algebra I at David Starr Jordan High School in Watts with Teach for America, and four of his fellow volunteers selected the TED format, which is based on sharing and spreading valuable ideas, as a platform for innovation in the realm of education.
“Structures within schools have remained remarkably consistent over the past several decades, and there’s a growing belief that schools need to embrace innovative approaches to solving entrenched problems,” Sokoloff said.
TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design, and the goal of a TED conference is to share ideas from the three wide-ranging domains via speakers, performances and conversation. Speakers at TEDxLoyolaMarymountU included political strategist and Director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC Dan Schnur, culture evangelist Jonathan Wolske, interior experience architect Annie Chu and Air Force Operations Flight Commander Captain Casey Whitson.
“We are inviting speakers from a variety of professions, each of whom can contribute their own unique perspective to the education reform debate,” Sokoloff said before the event. “The audience, on the other hand, will be comprised of the most dedicated educators, who will ultimately collaborate with one another.”
For Sokoloff, who graduated from Yale in 2011, reform is the next step in a process of giving back to the education system after joining Teach for America.
“As a child, my parents emphasized the importance of doing well in school,” Sokoloff said. “I saw teaching students from low-income communities as the position that would allow me to have the greatest positive impact on others.”
The theme of the TED conference was “Better Together.” Its organizers believe that, to effect change, “the Los Angeles community must come together and sacrifice ideology for the sake of creating community, sharing ideas and springing into action that will transform the education system as we now know it.”
“We want to spread new and creative ideas that can help promote progressive reforms in our public schools, we want to build a community of education activists and advocates, whose combined efforts give us the best chance of creating a fairer and more excellent school system and we want to inspire action,” Sokoloff said. “Good ideas are only effective if they’re put to use, and we want the optimism of the conference to propel us forward in our work to give every child a great education.”