innovation

A Spark of Inspiration is Only as Good as Your Response to It

The Spark that Started a Story of Innovation in Education

It was a TED video that caught Don Wettrick’s attention during his lunch hour. He’s always looking for inspiration through reading and videos, and as a teacher, he’s used to fitting that inspiration into little boxes necessary to keep administration happy. But this was different, partly because he had switched schools and his administrator was more open to changes and innovation, and partly because he really wanted to see his students find something they could get excited about.

When his students came to class that afternoon, Don showed them the video. They were not as impressed as he was, it seemed a little dry to them. And yet, as the discussion continued, an idea emerged. Students had often complained that if they were just given some freedom, they had all kinds of interests and projects they’d want to dig into.

“What if you had 30 minutes every Friday to work on whatever project you wanted?”

Don expected students to jump at the opportunity, and some did, but what he found was that a lot of students were so driven by grades and being pleasers, that when it came time to take those 30 minutes, he heard things like: “Well, Mr. Wettrick, what do you want me to work on?” And he’d answer, “whatever you want. What are you interested in?”

Many of the students had a really hard time thinking through that question, sparking an even greater desire for the idea of an innovation class, and curiosity about what would drive students to think more about what they liked, what they were interested in, and what they were good at.

Fast forward a few years after that spark of inspiration, and we see Don making waves all over the country with his work in bringing student innovation to classrooms everywhere.


Don Wettrick is the Innovation Coordinator at Noblesville High School, and is the author of "Pure Genius: Building a Culture of Innovation and Taking 20% Time to the Next Level." Wettrick has worked as a middle school and high school teacher; educational and innovation consultant; CEO, and podcast host. He is also the founder of StartEdUp, an organization dedicated to help transform the school culture toward innovation and enable student-led entrepreneurship. 

In the podcast, he speaks about his great kids, particularly Ava and her podcast, redefining (thank goodness) influence and mentorship on younger generations.