Those Who Can, Teach

Mr. Matthew Waynee of LAUSD’s LAUSD / USC Media Arts & Engineering Magnet (USC MAE), has an illustrious background. He proves the old idiom, “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach,” false – he does and teaches (well). From his first years post undergrad in TFA teaching at a rural high school in Texas, to his ongoing work in the film industry and his dedication to his current role as a Cinematic Arts teacher at USC MAE, Mr. Waynee’s career is quite a balancing act. His success proves that it’s all worth it.

Matthew Waynee was named MSA National Teacher of the Year at MSA’s 34th National Conference last spring in Miami, FL. He was honored, in part, for his colorful resume and his success inside and outside of the classroom. He also goes above and beyond for his school. Not only has Waynee added new classes to USC MAE’s course offerings but he’s also garnered new funds to support these programs by writing and winning grants. Finally, he’s enhanced his students’ classroom experiences by building community and professional partnerships.

Expanding Courses

A Hollywood screenwriter, University of Notre Dame and USC Alumni, TFA alumni, and college professor, Matthew Waynee brings a wealth of experience to his classroom. Mr. Waynee began teaching full time at USC MAE three years ago and at USC MAE he has lead the development of a rich cinematic arts focused curriculum by expanding course offerings from one film class to courses in Acting, Creative Writing, Digital Photography, Media Studies, Film History, Broadcast Journalism, Filmmaking 1 & 2, Cartoon and Animation, and more. Waynee says that, “In every course I teach I seek to make the content relevant to my students’ interests and to keep the technology they use current so that students are prepared for the media workforce should they choose to pursue a career in film or digital media.” In all of his classes, students are also required to write – this ensures they are honing a universal skill and also brings Matthew’s background in English (undergrad) and Creative Writing (MFA) into play. Mr. Waynee keeps course content and technology relevant with the help of grants, and community and professional partnerships.

Finding and Writing Grants

Waynee attributes his success with both allocating grants and partnerships to his convenient LA location – obviously Los Angeles is an opportune spot to seek funding and community support for student filmmaking endeavors. However, the keys to seeking and winning grants are fairly straightforward and apply to grant seekers based in smaller communities as well. Waynee simplifies the whole process, he says, “I started by writing about all the amazing things we were doing in our school. And then I told the grantors about whatever amazing new thing we wanted to do.” This, in essence, is how grants are won. Here are some of the questions he asks himself when he gets ready to write a grant, they are great questions to ask yourself if you’re a teacher or educational leader wanting to allocate grant funding:

  • How Strong is your Project?
  • Does your Project Fit the Grantor’s Interests?
  • Can your Project be Good PR for the Grantor?
  • How Good is Your Reputation?
  • How Competitive is the Grant?
  • How Much Total Money is Available from the Grant?
  • Needs to be more than just about your class
  • How are you including the community
  • Technology, technology, technology!
  • Remember: Local Organizations like helping Kids

Writing grants isn’t solely about how well you represent the project you wish to have funded – it’s also about seeking the grant from a source that will be willing to support that project. If you are seeking monies for an environmental science oriented Project Based Learning (PBL) unit, you might look for foundations that care about the environment and fund educational projects like yours. Seeking the appropriate funder is not dissimilar from seeking community and professional partnerships. Partnerships are another way to bolster project based learning units and ensure that your course content stays relevant. Mr. Waynee utilized community and professional partnerships to lead his students through a documentary film-making PBL unit. Find grant opportunities here.

PBL Goes Great with Partnerships

Mr. Waynee teaches hands on courses, and the way he brings all the skills he teaches together is in his Project Based Learning units. Students learn film technology and solidify their knowledge by completing these projects. PBL is also great way to get students involved in the community and the community involved in the school. An example of Waynee’s innovation in this area is in his documentary film course in which his students actually made documentary films about community organizations like the Salvation Army. By choosing to showcase community organizations in the documentaries, Waynee connected his students with the community – teaching them to be engaged citizens and also helped make community organizations more aware of his school.

Waynee was also strategic in connecting with local experts in film and media like Dreamworks and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association to help support the project and give students a real world experience. Remember that professional organizations like to help kids, it looks good for them to help kids, and all it takes to get a local business or organization involved in your lessons is to choose something that aligns with what they do and ask nicely. The worst they can say is no and when they say yes, the real world experience your students gain is so worth it!

Waynee presented on his use of PBL at MSA’s Fall Technical Training Conference, to read more about the ins and outs of grant-writing and partnering with community and professional organizations check out his presentation.

Waynee’s continued involvement in filmmaking outside school keeps his lessons fresh. Though his love of teaching and supporting students started in high school and solidified during his time in TFA, he’s truly hitting his stride as an educator and professional now. His ability to balance his work outside school with teaching benefits his students most as he continually brings new technology, technique, and expertise to his lessons.

Student films from Mr. Waynee’s documentary film course are listed below: 

  • USC Cadets:  an extracurricular program that helps teenagers gain training to see what it is like work as a police cadet in Los Angeles.
  • Ghetto Film School:  a program in Los Angeles that offers 30 students each year a free, intensive 30-month professional training in filmmaking, which has professional directors, cinematographers, and editors who serve as mentor
  • Jr. M.E.S.A.:   a program sponsored by the University of Southern California that assists middle school students learn about the fundamental of engineering design and construction.
  • Students Rock:  a student-created and run after-school group that mentors other students on how to play various musical instruments.

Learn more about USC MAE here.
Learn more about Matthew Waynee’s film projects here.

Success Stories » Those Who Can, Teach

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