In some of the stories we have heard in this series, there has been a common thread that has helped the particular teacher move through life to the position they now hold at River Bend Career and Technical Center. In the case of Tony Daniels, the teacher of the 21st Century Media and Design course at River Bend, the fact that both of his parents were educators perhaps made a big difference in the path he has taken. At a very early age, he knew he wanted to be involved in some type of meaningful work where he could give back to his community. In grade school, this thought process took him towards fields like law enforcement and firefighting. By the time he hit middle school and high school, his artistic and musical talents took over, and it wasn’t long before he knew he wanted to be able to teach what he had learned to others.
In college, Tony chose to pursue an Art Education major. His decision to teach was solidified one day while he was working part-time in a tattoo shop. The owner of the shop came to him and wanted to know if Tony could teach him how to draw hands more realistically in some of the work he was doing with clients. Even though Tony was not a tattoo artist, and was only helping with the day-to-day operation of the shop, he was able to show the owner how to create a multisided sketch box to better understand the angles and curves of a human hand. It worked! Tony then knew that he could help others learn, as well.
In addition to drawing talents and his artwork, he also understands music very well! He plays 3 musical instruments, has played in various bands throughout his life, and is a DJ as well. He also is a writer, having published some short stories, and enjoys sculpturing in his off time. All these skills and interests have helped him in his teaching role, particularly in the areas of animation, film-making, game design, graphic design and website construction. It is no wonder that when the position became available at River Bend, Tony jumped at the chance to teach the course.
One of his favorite things about the course at River Bend is how the various skills combine to create the finished product. For example, animation combines art, audio, photography and drawing. Game design uses these same skill sets, but in a different medium. Both examples allow the creator to tell a story. In addition, Tony loves the interaction with his students and how they take an idea and spin it into something that’s uniquely their own. Using technology, as his program does, can also become frustrating at times, as changes seem to happen so rapidly. Being ahead of the changes and helping to explain new programs and new software to students is always challenging. Staying on top of the industry changes and developments, is important for his students. This effort takes constant retraining on his part.
Much of the curriculum in the 21st Century Media and Design course is based on a college level class that Tony teaches. His students are eligible to earn up to twelve credits through the Community College of Vermont (CCV) and other partner colleges. This level of challenge helps student prepare for a two-year program after this course, or more. A designer in today’s job market will probably need either a two- or four-year degree to get a foot in the door. There are many career paths available through Tony’s program, but the big focus of the course is to “learn how to learn”; so that the students figure out how to continue their education in technology long after they have finished the program. In five years, there will be technology that is commonplace in our lives that doesn’t even exist yet. Helping these students to be able to “think on their feet”, and learn new skills “on the fly”, is a real focus of the class.
Tony has an active advisory board that has helped him shape and change curriculum over the years. Membership includes educators who teach similar subjects, parents, former students, and people working in the fields of game design, animation, web development and multimedia applications. This group has been enormously helpful in shaping the curriculum and keeping it relevant.
Helping others learn through passing on skills, concepts and abilities that Tony cares so deeply about has made a wonderful program for our students. At the same time, the career choice he has made seems to fit very well with his own goals in life. To quote Tony; “I LOVE coming to work every day; there isn’t a single job I would rather do!” Tony, River Bend is certainly thankful for everything you bring to your profession every day!