Innovator: Donna Wilson

By Beau Denton Photography by Alex Stafford October 31, 2012

Donna Wilson; Co-founder, BrainSMARTAs an elementary school teacher in Oklahoma, Donna Wilson noticed that a one-size-fits-all approach to education was failing many of her students.

Now an educational psychologist based in Sarasota, Wilson has been using the latest research on the brain to develop new teaching methods through her company, BrainSMART.

She and her partner, Marcus Conyers, have published more than 30 books and articles about the brain and how we learn. Their next book, Cultivating Minds, comes out in April 2013. They’ve developed a first-of-its-kind graduate degree program—at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale—which is accredited at the highest level by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.

BrainSMART’s Nova Southeastern program has graduated nearly 3,000 students from 48 different states. Combined with lectures across the country and school board consultations, Wilson estimates they have worked with more than 150,000 teachers in 15 years. Similar graduate degree programs have since started at Harvard and the University of Texas at Arlington.

The number of teachers learning their techniques will keep rising, Wilson predicts, as brain-based education research improves. “More has been learned about the brain in the last 10 years than the previous 100 years,” she says.

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