By Matthew Person ’24, #XBCorps

Congratulations to Mr. Howard for winning the FACTS Teacher Innovation Award! 

It’s remarkable when a teacher wins an award for their vocation, but even more remarkable when they win two major awards in less than one month! Mr. Ryan Howard, the director of Xaverian’s makerspace, the “X-Ploration Center,” did just that this winter. During Xaverian’s Founder’s Day liturgy on December 4, Mr. Howard was selected as the winner of the Ryken Award, the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a Xaverian faculty or staff member. The announcement of his winning was met with a thunderous standing ovation from students and colleagues.

Then on January 2, Mr. Howard was informed that he had won the FACTS Teacher Innovation Award, a national competition with only five winners selected each year. FACTS describes the innovation award as being “created to recognize exceptional educators creating lasting educational impact through grassroots innovation in their schools. We want to shine a light on the creative teachers making a difference through bold initiatives, commitment to their students, and support of FACTS’ mission to make educational dreams possible through service and technology.” 

The FACTS competition requires teachers to submit their own nomination, something Mr. Howard says he was incredibly reluctant to do. “I just don’t think of myself that way,” he says. Yet, he was encouraged to apply by fellow teachers and administrators like Dr. Steven Dacey ’95, Assistant Principal for Teaching and Learning, Mr. Mark Watson, science teacher, and Mrs. Elizabeth Shatas, world languages teacher. Of the award, Mr. Howard says, “I’m very proud of what I do, but I’m so dependent on so many people who help to make the X-Ploration Center work. I couldn’t have done this without them.” 

Xaverian’s X-Ploration Center is meant to be a cross-curricular makerspace that fosters innovation in all subjects, from STEM-based learning to theology, art, social studies, and language arts. The center is home to multiple 3-D printers, an impressive array of power tools, a CNC router, drill press, table and band saws, a laser engraver, lathes, a video production studio, and much more. Under Mr. Howard’s leadership, the center has hosted more than 1,000 classes since its opening in 2020, and the space held over 300 classes this year, which represents a 25% increase year-to-date. 

On March 12, representatives from FACTS came to Xaverian to present Mr. Howard with a $5,000 check and the school with a $1,000 check as the prizes for the Innovation Award. They gathered with Dr. Jacob Conca ’94 (Head of School), Dr. Michael Nicholson, P ’29 (Principal), and a crowd of faculty, staff, and students in the X-Ploration Center to celebrate Mr. Howard’s accomplishments. According to Dr. Conca, “Mr. Howard is very deserving of this recognition. His work as a teacher, coach, moderator, and Director of X-Ploration Center sets a high bar. He’s a talented educator and we are proud to have him here at Xaverian.”

Photo 1:  L-R: Dr. Jacob Conca ’94, Kate Henderson, Regional Director of FACTS, Brett White, Customer Relationship Manager for FACTS, Ryan Howard, and Dr. Michael Nicholson.  
Photo 2:  Mr. Ryan Howard and Mrs. Elizabeth Shatas with members of Xaverian’s Hawk News team.
Photo 3: Mr. Ryan Howard and AP Chemistry students.
Xaverian is a Catholic, college-preparatory school for boys in grades 7-12. As an inclusive community, we embrace diverse experiences and perspectives, welcoming students and families from all faiths and backgrounds. Through exceptional academics, athletics, the arts, faith formation, and service opportunities, we help young men discover their unique gifts and talents so they can share them with a world in need.