Educators of the Year!

“I never thought I could learn so much from blank faces and sarcastic comments”— Josh Lofgreen

They teach but are willing to learn.

The best thing a professor can admit is that they do not have all of the answers. Owen always says, “The moment I stop having the desire to learn I hope I don’t live any longer” (or at least something to that gist.) They admit that while they are inspiring students, the students are inspiring them and teaching them every day.

I have never had professors or teachers during my education that I can honestly say care in so many ways. They want their students to grow and surpass their accomplishments. They know when students are struggling past the point of an easy return. My friend and SHiFT Community member announced just the other day that she had to step away from college even though she just had six credits to graduate because of finances. That day we all convinced her start a gofundme and all these of the Educators of the Year donated. Because they care, they care and they never want to see students fail.

“They share their previous failures and their solutions to those failures with us. They care about our personal passions and desires and teach us how design is related to those.”— Briana Mateo

Owen said to me this week, “ I love being the professor who would stay up with students because thats where the great ideas and insights come from. “ Owen, John, and Ben are different than all other professors because they come in early, stay late, come in on weekends and all of these extra hours for the students to succeed. They work just as hard as students if not harder. (Honestly I don’t know how they have the energy to be a professor and basically a student all at the same time).

“I think that there’s something to be said about the nature, or well, nurturing that these professors provide. They want an aspiring designer to flourish and be well-rounded, but not in one set way. I’ve had the opportunity to learn alongside many wonderful professionals and professors throughout my development as a designer, but none of them have impacted me as much as these forward thinkers. I’ve met them in a place and time where design was raw, unconventional, and in the middle of nowhere…and have made me learn so much about myself and the world around me in ways that I would have never thought in the classroom. Although you might need a degree to teach in the classroom, you need the passion, experience, and fuel to teach and lead by example. Any of these given, talented, and kind-hearted individuals can demonstrate that tenfold. And that excellence shows.” -Natalie Huertas

Today I asked Ben Bush what his favorite part of being a professor was and one of his many answers was; “I love getting to know my students past the grade sheet and student level. I love to see my students succeed after graduating.” What sets these professors apart is that they want to get to know their students. They are not cold and standoffish. They are welcoming and treat everyone how they want to be treated with respect. They want the personal connection, they do not want to just have barrier between professor and student.

They are honest.

I think all three of them won those awards because they stay curious. I’ve seen each of them get super giddy about sharing what they’ve got going on in their brains, and that energy and mindset is contagious. Most importantly, I’ve never felt like I was being forced into a mold of what they want their students to be. . . Instead, they create an ideal environment for kids who want to learn and make cool shit (am I allowed to say that?) Well, we can’t learn and make cool shit if we’re all expected to be the same, but we can learn, make cool shit, and more with teachers who are excited and willing to help students approach things differently. Bush, Foster, and Mccabe don’t just want us to have good grades and sexy portfolios, they want us to innovate in our world. . . not beneath them but beside them, and that’s why they won. — Helen Haggerty

I am a pretty shy person contrary to what most people believe. Now that Owen knows that, he purposely will start a conversation with someone, call me over to introduce me, and then he leaves. He thinks its hilarious and as much as I really hate him sometimes because of this, I am realizing how much better I am at holding conversations with strangers. I have also been taught by all of them patience. Because they all like to not email me back now that they know it stresses me out. But these are just a few of the many things they love to push me on.

“Literally every time I see Owen he asks, “hey have you learned to draw in perspective yet?” no matter my answer, he always says no you haven’t! It pushes me to keep drawing and to keep improving.”— Maria Groben

Each one of them have traveled the world. Designed a variety of things. Created new solutions, taught different classes and lectures. They each come from unique situations and yet they use their experiences to teach and inspire us to create our own variety of experiences.

They put the students over everything. (Literally every single thing).

They are some of the few professors that will get yelled at by administration just to stand by the side of a student. They will do anything and everything to make sure we are getting the education we deserve. They sacrifice personal lives, time with families, and high paying jobs for us. I mean wow, if that is not a reason alone to win the award I mean dang.

Instead of giving you the answers, they encouraged exploration. It could be frustrating at times, but by the end of the process you felt much more accomplished. You were the one that learned and failed and succeeded. They really drove home that there isn’t only one answer or one way to solve a problem. -Josh Lofgreen

They are selfless. They don’t just know the material and regurgitate it. They live it out themselves and teach us by their actions as well on how design is part of our life, not just a job. -Briana Mateo

Owen is an incredible mentor, and one who puts so much trust into his students. In my second quarter at SCAD he wanted each student in our class to lead a session, teaching one necessary skill to the rest of our class. Even though I was nervous, teaching skills I had only just learned myself, this gave me such confidence moving forward. Since then, Owen has been a mentor and a role model as I’ve shifted into the educator position as well. I’m incredibly grateful for someone like Owen Foster, and that I get to call him a role model. -Liz Possee

“One of the most important things I learned from Owen was that “if you start with a noun, you have already lost.”— Phil Caridi

The reason I think both of them won these awards is because they have both mastered leading without giving you the answers. I have taken sponsored classes with both of these fine gentlemen, and both experiences have taught me how to harness the power of my own voice. That is something I will never be able to adequately thank John or Ben for. That, and both have fun and keep our classrooms fun and productive. -Liz Possee

They don’t tell you what your project should be, they’re transparent but are the guides throughout the story. -Briana Mateo

Going into the ID program I really had no idea what I was getting into with these three. My intro to ID class was with John and Owen and our first assignment was “Bird, Dwelling” followed up with “Have a good weekend.” I created a bird condo so birds can create a community, my model was nothing stellar either. They teased me in class and continue to tease me to this day but as much as they do that they went and continue to go a step further for provide feedback on what might be good and what needs to be improved to help student reach their full potential. -Blake Stephenson

“It is no great surprise these three men have each won IDSA’s young educator award, only natural that they are leaders in numerous school’s Industrial Design program, and due to their constant challenging of the status quo, it’s almost to be expected that they comprise some of the key members and founders of Shift Design Camp. Though each has their own flair and panache, there are several strong character qualities they share. Is is on these qualities I believe, they have built strength and success as educators and mentors to many. Integrity, perseverance, and strong desire to push boundaries, this can be seen in how they have handled numerous study abroad programs worldwide as well as countless sponsored classes with industry professionals.

Men like Ben are few and far between his outreach stretches far beyond the classroom and into the community of Savannah through volunteer work. Whimsy in the classroom is a staple, meaning media shown in class as well as costumed presentations.

John is a ceaseless ball of sarcastic energy, who has an incredible recall for past designs, future technologies, and pop culture references. He is well informed and shares this knowledge with every student he can.

Owen is a deep well of wisdom, and when discussing any project with him, expect to rethink your project completely, I mean completely. He can weed out the weakest points of a project and does so every time. To stay up late at school to offer advisement in the wee hours of the morning, is not unusual for him. “ -Lydia Batchelder

To have educators like Owen, John and Ben is like getting 3 winning lottery tickets at the same time. To have people push you to question everything, even the very words that they speak to you, is the embodiment of not only a true designer, but a REAL teacher. These guys are more than educators: they’re colleagues. They’re friends. They’re good people. Instead of explaining why they deserve these rewards, I’d rather question why it took so damn long to get ’em. -Brook Gomez

Anyways, these three very special men are the biggest supports and mentors in my life besides my family. They are the reason for all of design successes and person successes. I can’t thank them enough for all they provide for me, and nor can I share with you all reading this how excited I am for them on this journey as an educator.

Congrats to John McCabe for this year’s award! Thank you for being a mentor, an educator, an advisor, and most importantly a friend.


Originally published at

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