Spotlight: 10 Questions for Aaron Ferguson (CA '17)March 8, 2018
Aaron Ferguson (CA ‘17) credits his students’ hard work as much as his own for his Milken Award: “I tell them that success like that occurs when a bunch of talented people get together and choose to do something great.” He won his Award at Pacifica High School in Oxnard on October 12, 2017.
1. What went through your mind when you heard Lowell call your name at your surprise notification?
Aaron Ferguson: Honestly, pure joy. Then it was followed by a sense of relief and pride. All of the hard work that my students have done caused this moment to happen, and I am so proud of their efforts.
2. How did your students respond to your Milken Award? What impact has it had on them?
Aaron: I get to work with some of the most amazing students. They are talented and hardworking. They loved that I received the Award. They chanted "A-o-B!" (Academy of Business) and "Ferguson!" It was truly a remarkable experience. Receiving the Milken Award has justified the hard work my students have done over the years. I tell them that success like that occurs when a bunch of talented people get together and choose to do something great. This Award is as much for their work as it is for mine.
3. How did you end up in education?
Aaron: I was working as a geologist and coaching high school lacrosse. The high school atmosphere hooked me. Also, I just didn't love being a geologist. I wanted to wake up every morning loving what I did. That’s what teaching gives to me.
4. Who are your role models as an educator?
Aaron: My role models are not really in education. I try to find as many "mentors" as possible, and they are mostly outside of the realm of education, like author Tim Ferriss and entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk. I look for dynamic people with life-quality messages and actionable tasks that I can implement and pass on to my students.
5. What memories stand out from your first year of teaching?
Aaron: I can remember passion. I wasn't organized enough, I wasn't knowledgeable enough, and I wasn't empowered enough. But I was passionate about my students and their success. That made the struggle of that first year totally worth it.
6. What are students most likely to remember about their time in your class?
Aaron: I hope they remember me as a mentor who empowered them to think differently and think big. That I gave them the environment to fail and learn, and that we sought out the equipment they needed to be successful. My class is about improving yourself and I want students to feel empowered to accomplish.
7. What’s your biggest challenge in the classroom?
Aaron: My biggest challenge is saying "no." I am a high-energy guy and a workaholic. Remembering to take care of myself is my biggest challenge.
8. How do you think you’ll use your $25,000 Award?
Aaron: My wife and I started a nonprofit. Our first initiative is to find and develop dynamic young high-school-age girls from underserved areas. We are going to connect them with mentors and establish seminar events to develop skills in personal marketing and networking as well as professionalism. We are also working with several other nonprofits to create a travel component to the program. After successful completion of a series of events, the participants would be given an opportunity to travel abroad and help in a service project such as an orphanage, building homes or wells, etc.
9. What would you say to a student who expresses interest in a career in education?
Aaron: I say go for it. Learn the education system and put yourself in a subject and a district that values teachers and empowers them to be bigger than just a “babysitter.” Look for schools that value your expertise and then give it all you have. Lastly, remember the most important people in education are your students. Develop a moral compass that puts students first all the time.
10. What’s your definition of success?
Aaron: Success is the ability to do what you love and not to have to confuse it with your paycheck—financial freedom. But the definition of success is not nearly as important as how you obtain success. Success is a series of small victories that will eventually add up to large wins. Also, if your "why" is because you want to be successful, change that first. Your "why" should be based on doing the best and producing the best quality product. Success will follow.
Don’t miss any new articles and updates from Milken Educator Awards: