WCS MSVPA teacher named grand prize winner

By: Maria Allard | C&G Newspapers | Published October 6, 2021

 Matthew Mutschler

Matthew Mutschler

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WARREN/STERLING HEIGHTS — Last year, when Warren Consolidated Schools began the school year in a remote setting because of COVID-19, Middle School Visual & Performing Arts social studies teacher Matthew Mutschler found creative ways to reach his students virtually.

Several online assignments included virtual field trips he created that the students accessed through QR codes. That originality, along with several other of Mutschler’s teaching traits, have been recognized by others. He was recently named the Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation Teacher Innovator grand prize winner, presented by Raytheon Technologies. Mutschler was one of 10 grand prize winners from across the country to receive the honor, and the only educator in Michigan.

The winners were selected based on their ability to demonstrate habits of an innovator, as well as inspire their students to challenge the rules and take risks, demonstrate how to be collaborative and empathetic, and teach the value of learning from failure and staying curious.

“It was pretty gratifying, and it was a bit overwhelming,” Mutschler said. “It was pretty humbling. I was kind of blown away by it.”

For the honor, Raytheon Technologies awarded Mutschler $1,500 in funds to purchase classroom supplies, along with select merchandise from The Henry Ford and a one-year premium subscription to The Henry Ford’s educational products and services. Winners also were invited to participate in The Henry Ford Conversations panel discussion about innovative teaching practices.

MSVPA is a program designed to provide students with a more thorough understanding of social studies by combining the curriculum with studies in the fine arts of music, performance, and visual art.

The field trips Mutschler constructed centered on two historic events: the Salem Witch Trials and the establishment of the original 13 U.S. colonies. There were approximately 12 field trips the social studies teacher devised that included videos of Mutschler narrating historic details, with students being required to answer questions later. The videos also included storytelling and photographs. He said that between the two, the students found the Salem Witch Trials “most interesting.” Many former students of the award-winning teacher and parents left congratulatory messages on the district’s Facebook page. Colleagues were proud as well.

“The problems of tomorrow will be solved by the students of today, and we’re proud of Matt’s efforts to foster collaboration, risk-taking, and critical thinking,” WCS Chief Academic Officer John Bernia said. “He is an outstanding example of the hard work our teachers do, every day.”  

Mutschler has been in education for 25 years, with six of those years with the MSVPA program. The MSVPA program is offered for half the day for seventh and eighth graders at the former Butcher school in Warren. The students then return to their home middle school for the other half of the day. Currently the students are studying ancient world history.

“I have the greatest team I work with,” Mutschler said, adding that he teaches social studies while the art, dance, music and drama teachers incorporate those lessons into their curriculum. “Through the arts and theater, they learn so much more about history.”

With so much to remember about history, the Innovator grand prize winner sometimes puts lessons into songs for his students.

“People learn better if it’s put into a song,” Mutschler said.

The educator always had an interest in history, thus leading him on a path to a teaching career. Mutschler’s favorite time period is early American history, the 13 colonies and the period just before the American Revolution.

Raytheon Technologies Corp. is an aerospace and defense company that provides advanced systems and services for commercial, military and government customers worldwide. The company is headquartered in Waltham, Massachusetts.

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