Why the US Navy’s TOPGUN School Might be America’s Best Teacher Training Institution
Begin with a pure mission, dedicate to the future, commit to continuous change and adaptation, raise the bar for everyone.
In the late 1960s, the US Navy and Marine Corps faced a critical issue. In the skies over Vietnam, new Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAMs) and the capabilities of new and improved Soviet MIG fighters were resulting in a horrific loss rate for fighter pilots (or, “Naval Aviators” and “Marine pilots” to be linguistically accurate).
Out of that critical need, the Navy’s TOPGUN school was developed.
- Aspiration. Aspirational Peers.
- Hands-On Learning.
- Transferable Skills Expected.
- Relevance. Grounded in real-world needs and desires.
- Dispositions are as important as skills and academics.
- Real World Research Based: Constantly updated curriculum. Constantly updated methods.
While having the privilege of working with Nevada educators on the amazing Portrait of a Learner Project, I had the additional privilege of visiting Naval Air Station Fallon and spending a morning talking with a graduate of, and an Instructor at, the Navy’s TOPGUN Fighter Weapons School — an officer in the US Marine Corps. And I will be the first to admit that I had no idea that I would be discussing a teacher-training institution (this is not a place for observers, it is a classified facility — and unlike some others, I take “classified” seriously), and I definitely didn’t expect to be hearing about what might be the best teacher-training institution I know about.