Elliot Washor, Ed.D., has been involved in education reform and school design for more than 35 years as a teacher, philosophizer, principal, administrator, video producer, and writer. Twenty years ago, Elliot co-founded Big Picture Learning and the Met Center in Providence, RI, recognized by President Barack Obama as one of the most innovative high schools in the country; one which should serve as an example to any educator focusing their efforts on student-centered, real-world learning. Given the success of the Big Picture design in the United States, Elliot has been recruited to replicate its successes across the world and, to date, has helped form over 100 Big Picture international schools in places like Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Italy, Israel, The Netherlands, Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey.
Elliot is interested in all levels of school design – from kindergarten through college, urban and rural, across all disciplines. As detailed in his book Leaving to Learn, Elliot is most interested in how schools connect with communities to better understand how students (and adults) learn both inside and outside formal education settings.
Beyond school design, Elliot has played a key role in designing and developing programs (such as seed-to-table programs and Makerspaces) —that are specifically designed to entwine head, heart, and hand. Elliot has always held that the key to education—and really to humanity—is to have students and staff—and people in general—do things that matter to them and their communities. If this “do-think-do” mentality seems simple, it’s intended to. Elliot’s educational philosophy—one which is embedded at the core of Big Picture’s successful school design—is that practice should inform theory and that theory should inform practice, a cycle that can lead to profound change, and one that has earned Elliot wide acclaim and recognition.
At Thayer High School in Winchester, N.H., Elliot’s professional development programs won an “Innovations in State and Local Government Award” from the Ford Foundation and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He was selected as one of the Twelve Most Daring Educators in the World by the George Lucas Educational Foundation. His dissertation on Innovative Pedagogy and New Facilities won the merit award from DesignShare, the international forum for innovative schools. Elliot has won a regional Emmy for his work as an Executive Producer on Big Picture Learning’s early Public Service Announcements.
Elliot lives in sunny San Diego with his wife and dogs.