Akash Patel is a Spanish teacher at Ignite Middle School in Dallas. He is also one of TIME Magazine’s Innovative Teachers of 2022
Patel’s lessons are not limited to his classroom. Through its Happy World Foundation, it virtually connects students to the world around them.
“So we started connecting them with people in Asia, Antarctica, where there were scientists taking selfies with penguins,” Patel said.
Patel started his non-profit Happy World Foundation in honor of his late twin brother, Happy. It connects teachers anywhere to a free, open-source database where they can speak to 1,200 guest speakers in 150 countries.
“When you see a human from another part of the globe, especially what they’re going through, it inspires empathy,” Patel said. “Many children in the United States lack empathy for what is happening in South Sudan, Syria or Ukraine, but when they connect with humans from these parts of the world, they show empathy , and empathy often turns into action.”
Patel said he asked students to do toy and clothing drives for refugee children.
“Kids at a Title 1 school, who don’t have much of their own in downtown Dallas, have realized that you don’t have to be rich to make a difference in the world. someone’s life,” Patel said.