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Mark Ellison: crafting future innovation

Legendary American graphic designer and Oscar-winning filmmaker, Saul Bass, once said, “Design is thinking made visual.” This seemingly simple concept couldn’t more aptly describe the creative philosophy of ACG School Jakarta Design technology teacher, Mark Ellison.

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A deep and abiding love of design saw Mark enjoy an extensive career as a product designer in the corporate sector, before moving into the field of education more than a decade and a half ago. The talented innovator has since taught design technology across a variety of schools in both his native UK and in Beijing, before joining ACG School Jakarta in 2019.

Making learning accessible to all students is a priority for this energetic educator, who personalises his lesson plans to foster creativity and professionalism among his Year 7 to 10 classes. He believes design teachers must consider the challenges of each project and then provide the necessary information and support to allow students to flourish, succeed, and surpass their own expectations.

“During my time working in the design department at a specialist technical school in the UK, I realised the benefits of working with visionaries,” he explains. “These inspiring teachers allowed students to reach their potential, empowering them to explore their interests within the parameters of the curriculum framework.”

“At ACG, we offer a flexible curriculum that allows for conceptual learning and skill-based activities, as well as serving the personalised needs of our students. It is important for us to provide rigorous, yet achievable challenges that allow students to become independent, responsible life-long learners who strive for excellence, not only for themselves but for their peers and community around them.”

Additionally, Mark is passionate about delivering authentic, real-life, and collaborative learning for his students and infuses his lessons with examples from his time in the corporate world.

“I pride myself on creating opportunities for students that build on their enthusiasms and individual strengths, encouraging them to realise their potential and successes,” he says. “Drawing on my own experiences has, on many occasions, allowed students to actively work within the local and wider communities.”

Frequently delivering coursework through project-based initiatives, Mark is keen for students to experience the production process from beginning to end and has instituted several key programmes and enterprise units with this in mind. The idea began when his students in the UK were given the opportunity to design the stage set of what was to become a hugely successful charity event. Since then, the idea has evolved to include a range of skillsets, offering students the challenge of working to deadlines as graphic designers, set designers, research editors and photographers.

Mark’s energetic teaching style, creative flair and ‘no-limits’ attitude to design act as a strong motivating factor for his classes, as does his obvious expertise and infectious enthusiasm. However, it was an encounter with a student sixteen years ago that defined his teaching career.

“I was challenged by a disengaged student who didn’t want to be in school, let alone in design class. I realised I needed to shift my teaching style to focus on the individual, allowing for discussion whilst providing support and encouragement.

“Using this approach, the student quickly engaged with the project, gaining widespread recognition and high academic achievement awards. This experience was not only rewarding but definitively influenced the way I delivered future lessons. There is no better feeling than knowing you have made a significant impact upon a young person’s life.

“Since then, I have seen many students enjoy personal success through design related opportunities, working alongside industry professionals in a variety of contexts.”

With an eye to the future, Mark is focussed on keeping at the forefront of design technology.

“One of the most exciting and enjoyable aspects of teaching is the need to embrace the ever-evolving technology and new skillsets within the area of design. Teaching allows me to stay creative and productive while crafting projects to further inspire pupils. It also gives me time and space to reflect on work practices and how they can be enhanced for the further development of both my students and my own pedagogy.

“This is what I will continue to foster at ACG School Jakarta.”

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