Local teacher poised to make mark in Lego world

WILLIAMSBURG – John Heffernan, who teaches technology in Williamsburg elementary schools, has been using Lego educational materials in his classrooms for years. He has developed a pre-K through sixth grade robotics curriculum involving the popular building toys. And he has taught Lego engineering to dozens of teachers and hundreds of students in western Massachusetts through a state grant he applied for in 2009. Now Heffernan has a chance to share his insights with the company that makes Legos. He is among 39 educators nationwide – and the only teacher in Hampshire County – named to this year’s Lego Education Advisory Panel (LEAP). Panel members, who are teachers from preschool to the college level, will advise the company on product design and development, according to Lego officials. “They know what works and what doesn’t,” said Brice Rockers, who coordinates the advisory panel program for Kansas-based Lego Education. “The panel will help us do marketing and test out products that are coming up.” Rocker said more than 1,600 educators applied to be on the advisory panel, now in its second year. In addition to helping the company with product design, members also attend Lego Education conferences and workshops. Heffernan, a former software engineer who has been teaching since 1992 and joined the Williamsburg school system in 2003, said he has enjoyed having contact with other panel members. “I’ve gotten a lot of ideas from other teachers,” he said. “And not all of them are about robotics.” Heffernan, who holds an undergraduate degree from Tufts University and a master’s from Lesley College in Boston, has also introduced Lego robotics in classrooms and after-school clubs in the Chesterfield-Goshen and Hampshire Regional school districts. He is studying for a doctoral degree in education from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.


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