Learn from the Barbershop of Ideas

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Tim Leistikow is a high school English teacher at Fridley Public Schools in Minnesota. His favorite thing in the world is working with a group of passionate people who have a common goal — whether that’s in education, the performing arts, or a game of pick-up basketball. As a TED-Ed Innovative Educator, Tim is passionate about giving the underserved/underrepresented students of his school a place that highlights their achievements and validates their voices.


Let’s create meaningful, culturally responsive events that bring together the community and build on big ideas from Christopher Emdin, George Couros, and Sharrocky Hollie.


Barbershop of Ideas logo. Credit: Amir Khadar.

Barbershop of Ideas logo. Credit: Amir Khadar.

The Barbershop of Ideas brings together current students and families at Fridley Public Schools, alumni, and community members for an evening of engaging conversations and community fellowship. Each event will focus on an alum of color who has remained in the community and found success in his or her life. The event will feature the talents of current Fridley Public Schools students — both visual and performing artists. Tim developed the idea for this event in collaboration with 2009 Fridley High School graduate Akeem Akway, owner of Akway’s Sports Barbershop. “Akeem is an amazing person, and his barbershop is a hub for community engagement,” says Tim. The Barbershop of Ideas will begin with a 15-minute talk by a local alum of color, followed by a mixture of performance, discussions, and fellowship — similar to what you might see when you spend an afternoon at Akeem’s shop. The first event is planned for January 2018.

Below, read Tim’s tips on how to create your own culturally responsive evening event in the school community:

  • Go to spaces in your community that attract a diverse group of alumni.
  • Ask for involvement from the current student population. Students have played an active role in creating The Barbershop of Ideas. Shoutout to 2017 alum Amir Khadar for the logo.
  • Connect with alumni via social media and ask them to be involved.
  • Get a logo, website, Twitter page, Facebook page, and any other social media entities right away.
  • Get community partners to help do the marketing and promotion.
  • Get as many cheerleaders on board as possible. Districts love positives connections to the community and alumni.

This article is part of the TED-Ed Innovation Project series, which highlights 25+ TED-Ed Innovation Projects designed by educators, for educators, with the support and guidance of the TED-Ed Innovative Educator program. You are welcome to share, duplicate and modify projects under this Creative Commons license to meet the needs of students and teachers. Art credit: Shutterstock.