Student-Centered Innovation with Andy Milne

jzuho59kAndy Milne is a health and physical education teacher originally from London, England, who currently teaches at New Trier High School in Illinois. At New Trier High School, Andy has implemented a number of student-centered innovative practices to help motivate and engage his students. As a result, he was recently named SHAPE America Midwest Health Teacher of the Year and is now in the running for SHAPE America National Health Teacher of the Year.  

I was fortunate enough to have a chance to interview Andy as an extension to his International Podcast Day episode featured on the Global PhysEd Voxcast. Please click on the following link to listen to the International Podcast Day episode by Andy Milne.

“I’ve been podcasting with my students for seven years, and use them in a way to showcase their good work.  These podcasts are shared with their peers and allow my subject matter to reach beyond the four walls of my classroom.” Andy Milne


First, I’d like to congratulate you for recently winning Midwest Health Teacher of the Year.  A very well deserved honor. What does this award mean to you?


Obviously I’m very proud, and humbled to be recognized by my peers. We don’t teach for the recognition or awards but it feels very nice to acknowledged in this way. Having met other award winners it’s been interesting to hear about their experiences, their journey towards receiving awards, and what has happened to them since. I am passionate about my craft and devote a lot of time towards bettering each lesson, trying to be innovative and collaborate with other teachers as much as possible. This award is a way in which I can validate these efforts and know that others are aware of my teaching.


This award comes, in part, because of all the innovative practices you implement in your classes. Can you talk about some of the unique ways you keep your students engaged?


I try and make my classes as interactive as possible, providing students with voice and choice whenever appropriate. Because I think that my subject is so important I need to make sure that students get maximum value from the semester that they are with me, with the ultimate aim being that we are able to bridge the gap between our classroom and the greater community, whether that be school, local or global community. I’m a big fan of encouraging movement within the classroom and subscribe to the Mike Kuczala kinesthetic classroom approach. Giving students voice and encouraging them to use it lends itself to creative experiences such as poster making, iMovies, and podcasts. This extends the life of student work and allows it to be shared on social media, in the eBooks that I write and means that peers can teach peers. I use semester 1 creations to educate semester 2 students and can use something like podcasts to flip the learning experience. Semester 2 students can listen to semester 1 podcasts in advance of a topic and arrive to that first lesson with questions.


Not only do you share you passion with your students and school community, you also share your work on social media. How important is it for you to be a connected educator?


I know what it feels like to be the only health teacher in a building, so I know what it feels like to feel like I’m on an island. Connecting with other teachers has had the most transformative effect on my teaching. I now know that whenever I need to talk about an idea I have a large number of educators to talk with, 24/7, across the globe. My PLN are an incredible group of educators who have never let me down. There is always someone out there willing to talk through an idea or provide me with feedback. My global podcasts are an example of the value of being connected globally.


Because of your connection to educators from around the world, you have been able to create a series of podcasts for International Podcast Day about the health concerns of students from different part of the world. Can you talk about how this project started for you and what you hope to achieve by creating and sharing these podcasts?  


I have podcasted with students and encourage them to create their own. I also consume a large amount of podcasts weekly during my 70 minute commutes. September 30th is International Podcast Day and I wanted to show my support in a way that also intertwined with my subject area. I created a Google Doc of generic questions and shared these with my PLN across the globe with the initial idea of having student voices from each continent represented. Although I never quite managed to hit every continent, I have had recordings from schools in America, England, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, and Saudi Arabia. My aim with the podcast was to allow students to hear from their global peers and learn a little about their similarities and differences.


What were some of your biggest revelations from this project?


Students are essentially the same. They have similar desires, they want teachers to create relationships with them, they want passionate teachers, and they want the best for their communities. Obesity, diet, and a reliance upon technology are common concerns for students across the world. However, Vietnamese students in my most recent podcasts talked about the concerns that they have for malnutrition, poverty, and access to education. This wasn’t mentioned by students from other countries. Other experiences that were novel for my students to hear were the girl in America who lived in a community that reared animals for slaughter for food in the winter, and the girls in the Middle East revealing that they couldn’t drive because driving was for men only, and that if they wanted to work out they had to visit a female-only gym that was more interested in how they dressed than how they worked out.


How did your students respond to the final project?


Just hearing about different cultural experiences is sufficient for this project to be powerful. My students on the whole are widely traveled, but for those unable to do so, this exposure to peers from other countries is a great way to consider what it means to be a part of a global community.


Do you have any thoughts of ideas for future podcasts?  


These podcasts are time consuming if you want to edit the audio in a fashion that makes it more than just a series of continuous recordings. However, I think there is definitely scope for mini podcast projects to connect schools with each other. The podcast would be a great way in which to introduce the students and certain themes, but then there could be further questioning, additional recordings, and a stream of podcast.


Are there any other projects you are currently working on that we can watch out for and maybe help out with?


I created a successful “Choose Your Own Adventure” last year using Google slides. Students worked their way through a narrative and reacted to various choices presented to them. My story addresses the topics of binge drinking and consent. The stories weaved in and out, but managed to present every student with two videos and some questions to consider. There is potential to create more of these stories and then eventually bolt them together to make a giant interactive story with multiple adventures. I’ve sat on this project for a while, but I think it might be time to bring it back to life. A global, crowd-sourced, immersive, interactive health story! Think how successful that could be. Perhaps in a few years we could even add some virtual reality elements to it, too!

I would like to say thank you to Andy Milne for his time and for leading the way in our profession.  He is an inspiration to students and teachers alike.  If you would like to connect with Andy you can follow him on Twitter (@carmelhealth) and on his website and blog,  

4 Comments on “Student-Centered Innovation with Andy Milne

  1. Jorge,

    Thank you for this! I am working so hard to transform my teaching and our approach in our district. I have spent a lot of time researching what UK, Canada and Australia are doing.

    The most difficult part for me is how to manage student choices within one gym and 60-70 kids per class, in elementary school. My Middle School folks are dealing with classes of 160.

    Looking forward to more information here.

    Lynn Bullard

    Lead Teacher for Boerne ISD

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