School: Redondo Union High School
District: Redondo Beach Unified School District
County: Los Angeles County
Region: Southern California
Grade: High School
Subject: Government, Economics
Award Year: 2019
“Over the years, I have come to realize that good teaching is similar to a good recipe. There are a lot of different ingredients that make a unit or lesson plan come together, but it is not always obvious why it works. My teaching philosophy has been one of continual experimentation and humility when it does not go the way you want. The nice thing about taking risks in the classroom is that eventually you will stumble upon some great recipes.” — Michael Henges
Henges has been teaching for 11 years, seven years in his current position at Redondo Union High School. He is also a mock trial coach, Social Studies Department co-chair, and lead instructional technology teacher.
In his classroom, students are seated in groups of four, to both increase collaboration and help with informal check-ins to see if they need any help. He uses data from Advanced Placement Government exams every year to align the rigor of the class with the exam, so students have an honest assessment of where they stand. He has also implemented project-based learning, such as large-scale election simulations across all of his classes, complete with caucuses, primaries, debates, and a general election. Most recently, he initiated a civic engagement project where all seniors are required to participate in at least one civic activity before they graduate. This has led to many students being involved in the community, including some obtaining internships with state and local officials.
“In the classroom, Mr. Henges brings learning to life,” says Principal Jens Brandt. “Working with seniors is no easy task as the year winds down and they can be quick to feel the pull of summer vacation, college adventures, and the ‘freedom’ of adulthood. Mr. Henges’ class, though, is a space where engagement never ceases until the final bell chimes.