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Manhattan Beach Teacher Selected for Prestigious Teaching Fellowship

Feb 16, 2021 08:01AM ● By Jeanne Fratello
A Mira Costa High School teacher has been awarded a spot in the prestigious Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship program by National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions.

Michael Hernandez, a cinema and broadcast journalism teacher at Mira Costa, was one of only 50 teachers in the United States and Canada selected for the honor.

"I was ecstatic when I found out about being selected," said Hernandez. "It's a competitive process with hundreds of applicants, so I wasn't sure about my chances. It's truly an honor to be selected and to have the chance to work with some very talented educators."

The Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship is a professional development opportunity for pre-K–12 educators made possible by a partnership between Lindblad Expeditions and the National Geographic Society. The program brings educators aboard one of Lindblad Expeditions’ voyages for a life-changing, field-based experience. The educators then transfer their onboard experience into new ways to teach students and engage colleagues. Through this opportunity, Grosvenor Teacher Fellows aim to bring new geographic awareness into their learning environments and communities.

"This is a great opportunity for me to grow as a professional. I get to connect with smart and talented people in different parts of the county and learn from them," said Hernandez. "The flip side is that I get to represent Mira Costa and Manhattan Beach and say, 'Here are all the the cool things we’re doing here.'"

Once conditions allow, the current cohort of teaching fellows will embark on a one- to three-week voyage aboard a Lindblad Expeditions ship, a fleet that includes National Geographic Explorer, National Geographic Endeavour II, National Geographic Orion, or National Geographic Quest.

Fellows will travel in small groups to some of the world’s most remote and extraordinary environments—such as the high Arctic, southeast Alaska, Central America, Antarctica, or the Galápagos Islands. Throughout their journey, they will encounter wildlife and explore breathtaking landscapes while accompanied by a team of Lindblad Expeditions naturalists, including marine biologists, geologists, historians, undersea specialists and National Geographic photographers.

As the fellows wait for the green light to begin their journey, said Hernandez, the cohort has begun meeting virtually and exchanging ideas.

Teaching 'Digital Storytelling'

Hernandez assists a student during a trip to Cuba, where students created documentaries about the developing nation.

An award-winning cinema and broadcast journalism teacher, Hernandez founded the Media Arts program at Mira Costa in 1999.  He advises the nationally award-winning Mustang Morning News broadcast journalism program, and has taken students to countries such as Cambodia, Cuba and Vietnam to make documentaries

He is an Apple Distinguished Educator, Google for Education Certified Innovator and PBS Digital Innovator; and he speaks regularly at national and international conferences like SXSW EDU, ISTE, and the National High School Journalism Convention. He is also the 2015-16 Los Angeles County Teacher of the Year.

Hernandez said he believes in empowering his students to become digital storytellers who create work that will affect change in society.

Hernandez presenting on a panel at SXSW EDU. (He is also scheduled to speak at the 2021 SXSW EDU conference)

"My goals for the fellowship are to bring back experiences and develop curriculum to help my students become more globally-minded and prepared to take action for some of our most pressing issues," said Hernandez. "For me that means climate change and human migration. My purpose as a teacher is to prepare my students for the future so that they can take on the challenges of our world and make a positive impact. I try to do this now with the types of projects I assign, and the lens through which we approach the curriculum."

Hernandez is a firm believer in experiential, hands-on learning and exploring the world. And yet he sees this year's experience with remote learning as a welcome challenge.

For example, his Mustang Morning News team had always done broadcasts from their studio. But remote learning has brought them out of the classroom and expanded their horizons. They are now doing introductions from different parts of Los Angeles, for example, and calling upon experts from around the world for commentary on issues via Zoom.

"Every obstacle is an opportunity. It’s a gift," he said. "It forces you to rethink what you’ve done and how you do it; and it forces you to think of new ways to do something that may be better than what you’ve done before. It has been a struggle, but at the same time, we’ve done some really great things."

To follow along on Hernandez' journey, follow him on Twitter at @cinehead and Instagram at @changing.the.narrative.

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