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Getting Smart Podcast

Oct 11, 2017

In this episode, CEO of Getting Smart, Tom Vander Ark interviews Mario Basora, Superintendent of Yellow Springs School in Ohio. Mario explains his journey from being an average student on the West Coast to becoming a successful Superintendent in Ohitical pedagogy, new tech schools, strategic planning, and the various projects children at his school have o. As well as learning about Mario’s background, Mario and Tom discuss project-based learning, critaken pride in.


Mario was born in the Bronx, New York, but raised by his single mother in Santa Ana, California from a young age, along with his sister. Growing up was tough — he lived in a poor neighborhood and had no father-figure — and he was an uninspired C-Student all the way from Elementary to High School. After High School, he went to College, down in San Diego, for a year but ended up dropping out and coming back to Orange County and enrolling in a community college. It was while in his second year of community college that he had an epiphany from several inspirational professors: He had to become the change he wanted to see in the world. After that, he traveled between Northern Kentucky as a camp counselor and Ohio to earn his Dual Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science at Cal State Fullerton, and Social Studies Degree in Northern Kentucky. He then began teaching in Cincinnati at Princeton High School while earning his Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership at the Miami University. Presently, Mario Basora’s main focus is on Yellow Springs School — where he is Superintendent — to continue to work on strategic planning and develop an innovative teaching model based around the idea of PBL (project-based learning) with the help of his fellow staff, teachers, and students.


Key Takeaways:

[:42] Tom welcomes Mario and Mario gives more insight into his background of growing up as a C-Student.

[3:14] Mario’s wake up call: Becoming the difference he wanted to see in the world.

[3:38] Becoming interested in education through several inspirational professors and turning his life around.

[4:22] The 180° that occurred from the combination of ‘getting serious’ and powerful learning experiences.

[5:45] Mario getting to Northern Kentucky, becoming a camp counselor, earning his Dual Bachelor’s Degree, and beginning to work at Princeton High School in Cincinnati.

[7:07] Mario’s passion for student engagement and becoming enlightened to critical pedagogy.

[8:39] Starting out as a Principal, visiting a New Tech School in Indiana, and becoming even more inspired to pioneer the sort of school he would want all kids to go to.

[10:55] Receiving the opportunity to work at Yellow Springs School, working on the strategic planning process from scratch, and the bend towards project-based learning.

[12:42] Identifying the “big rocks” in the planning; Creating a school with a new, innovative teaching model.

[14:02] Tom asks Mario to unpack who was driving the direction of their new strategic plan. Tom describes the consensus the community had on their plan (for project-based learning).

[15:47] Tom asks how Mario plans to make the project-based learning successful in Yellow Springs.

[18:03] Mario discusses the training they’ve had: Buck, High Tech High, as well as visiting expeditionary learning schools and multiple High Tech High Schools.

[18:55] Tom and Mario take a look at projects at each level. First, Elementary.

[22:28] Mario outlines several projects at the 7th Grade level, and the recognition they’ve gotten from the community.

[27:32] Mario talks about the project, ‘Is it Too Late to Save the Planet?’ for the High School students.

[30:40] Mario’s advice to those who want to learn more about PBL (project-based learning).


Mentioned in This Episode:

New Tech Network

Buck Training

High Tech High

Trouble Don’t Last, by Shelley Pearsall


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Twitter-Specific Quotes:


No one is going to change your life but you. You have got to be the one that makes a difference in your world.” — Mario Basora


I wanted teaching to be an opportunity to really, really help kids learn and do great things with their lives.” — Mario Basora


One of the things I found with PBL is our teachers are tapping into their creativity more than ever.”
— Mario Basora


Having teachers as part of the planning process and design process from inception — I think — is critical.” — Mario Basora


We want teachers to take risks … to move from a culture of ‘failing is not an option,’ to one of ‘failing forward.’” — Mario Basora


Teachers have to be allowed to take risks if they’re ever going to be innovative and change our culture.” — Mario Basora


In order to get [education] to move forward, it’s going to require a cultural shift towards innovation and risk-taking.” — Mario Basora




I felt like I had a spark that happened with me in College and it made a difference in my life. I felt like I really wanted to be able to do the same for other kids and I wanted to really, truly make a difference.” — Mario Basora


If this is the kind of school I want my kids to go to … I should do whatever I can to make this the kind of school that all kids can go to.” — Mario Basora


Bringing teachers… in as part of the planning process [for a new strategic learning plan] … is critically important to success.” — Mario Basora