Glenn Corey

After primarily being a toy designer for 20 years and working for companies such as Apple and Motorola with stints as a documentary film producer and museum exhibit designer, Glenn Corey arrived at a crossroads in his life in 2009.

Dominican helped take him down a different career path that has taken him to new heights.

With the encouragement and support of his two daughters, Jillian and Drew who believed he would make an excellent teacher, Corey came to Dominican to earn his teaching credential. He always had considered the profession noble, yet financial concerns for years prevented him for pursuing it. He didn’t want to sacrifice well-paying jobs for an uncertain future in teaching.

“More than anything Dominican facilitated my career,” Corey says.

Margaret Golden, professor in the Multiple Subjects Program in the School of Education and Counseling Psychology, advised Corey during his 18 months in Dominican’s teaching credential program.

“He was a brilliant and motivated student who came to teaching after a successful career in chemical engineering to ignite the passions of youth in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM),” says Golden, who also is director of Dominican’s Courage to Teach® program. “During his field placement at San Rafael High School, he pushed the boundaries on teaching mathematics. Glenn helped students to think about math creatively, engaging them to think outside the box. He was a gem. I am so pleased that he has found a niche in teaching where his gifts are valued and appreciated.”

Corey’s Dominican experience led to his first job as a teacher at Novato High School. One day, Corey was asked to be a substitute teacher for an earth science class and apparently was so proficient at it that he was approached before the beginning of the next school year to teach physics full-time, even though he had never taught a physics class.

“Before I assigned any homework assignment, I did the problems myself so I had the same homework they did the night before and did all the problems myself,” says Corey, who now teaches an Advanced Placement physics class. “It wasn’t because I was super smart. I was because I was super well-prepared.”

Corey soon after decided to create a product design class that ultimately altered the course of his teaching career. He noticed that the high school’s wood shop has been empty and abandoned for years. He took advantage of computers installed in one class room for students to learn ideation and coding and recreate products from old electric toys and remote cars. In the meantime, he renovated the wood shop into another classroom where, amongst old drills and saws, an old video game rests. Corey wants his students someday to convert it into a robot that can serve as a hallway monitor.

They may fail initially, but that is part of Corey’s method of operation. He builds success through failures.

 “They are so afraid to make a mistake and look foolish in front of their friends that can’t start anything for fear it might not be the right thing,” Corey says. “I want them to find the kernel of good ideas among bad ones.”

This concept in ingenuity and innovation caught the eye of Inverness Research, which was hired by the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation to identify teachers on the West Coast who were unique, creative and unsung in what they were doing to teach and engage students. Corey was nominated, invited to apply for an award and, in February, he was named as one of the first recipients of a new $25,000 fellowship presented by Allen Foundation designed to recognize and support K-12 teachers who promote innovation and entrepreneurialism in the classroom. That’s the short-term prize.

The long-term award is the Paul Allen Foundation is pledging upwards of another $400,000 in funding to expand Corey’s product design program which, in two years, has increased from 16 students to 39. Corey, who has heard he may have as many as 90 students applying for the class this fall, has designs on how to spend the money. He wants to reward and enhance the education of his students by hiring teachers and a technician to expand to his classroom and concept into a design center and, in his words, “a community resource.”

What I really want to do it with it is open it to the community and open it at night. I’d like to make it so the students who are not in my design class can say something like, `I want to build a go-kart, I could give them welding equipment. I could have a parking lot fenced in. Kids can do big, long-term projects that I can lock up at night.

“I’d love to make this a county center for design and make it so kids from all over the county can come here. That would be a dream-come-true.”

For Corey, the immediate goal now is to teach computer programming and advanced product design. He wants to modernize and extend his classroom beyond Novato High. He is serving as a consultant at Bel Air Elementary and aims to connect elementary school students with high school students in a learning environment.

Corey also is making an impact on student teachers, including Ben Knudson, who is in Dominican’s Credential/MS Education program.

“It’s easy to hear the teaching tips like `Expect a lot from your students. Never stop learning. And, love what you do’ but it is different to see an example. Every teacher does it their own way,” says Knudson, who has been student teaching with Corey since January.  “Glenn’s way draws on his extensive experience outside of the classroom. He does a great job connecting content to the real world.”

He is connecting with the past as well. Corey has met with the dean of the School of Environmental Design at his alma mater, UC-Berkeley, and would like to arrange student internships and apprenticeship opportunities.

Corey makes all these plans with teaching his kids foremost in his mind.

“I have a deep curiosity about everything. When kids see a deep curiosity, their response is ‘If he’s interested, there must be something interesting there,’ ” he says. “My job is to get them super excited to learn. I have this broad experience so I’m trying to get them when they leave here to be crazy excited about their career and what they want to do in the future.”