I graduated from Mesa State College (now Colorado Mesa University) in May 2004 with a Bachelors of Science in Mathematics and a Colorado Teaching License. While at CMU, I played football and participated in a number of campus groups, including Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Christian Challenge, Math Club, and Kappa Mu Epsilon, our mathematics honor society. I also worked at a youth home called Hand Up Homes for Youth, which gave me a big leg up in dealing with discipline issues.
My first teaching job was in Parachute, Colorado, at Grand Valley High School. I was also a coach for Football, Track and Field, and Weightlifting, enjoying some success there. It was a traditional setting that I was very comfortable being in, considering I am a traditional guy myself. We did a lot of work on the curriculum to ensure consistency and success, and it showed.
After two years, though, I had to move to Denver because my bride-to-be was in Medical School and needed to finish after our marriage. We would be in Denver at least two years for that, which I figured that I could handle. It turns out that we were out of there as fast as possible after Erin was done with Medical School!
While in Denver, I taught at Welby New Technology High School, a part of the Mapleton Public Schools. The district was struggling mightily with poor test scores, and the state was going to take it over until the district struck a deal to restructure each large school into a smaller school format. I chose Welby over offers from more successful districts because I thought it was the best challenge for me, and I would see the most success.
We were a part of the New Tech Network (http://www.newtechnetwork.org), and enjoyed many tools to integrate technology into the classroom, including a 1:1 Student:Computer ratio and tons of training on curricular development because we didn't use books. I was introduced to Project Based Learning while at Welby, and practiced it so much in my two years there that I got pretty efficient at developing projects for the math classroom. I enjoyed building the projects, but I never did like teaching there. I told my wife that if I had to teach there one more year, I would likely have quit teaching altogether. The attitude and work ethic of the inner city kids and the lack of success really drove me away from my heart of teaching.
As much as I didn't like teaching in Denver, I became a much better educator those two years. I was able to use my creative mathematical brain to really do some things that I enjoyed, including applying mathematics in the classroom. It showed me the type of school that I wanted to work in.
My wife and I came full circle to 2008, and she was due to finish Medical School and choose her top placements for residency. We put Anchorage, Alaska on the top of our list, and off we went, not even looking back at Denver. The city served its purpose, but we wanted to be in a smaller environment.
I was hired by the Anchorage School District to teach at Highland Tech High School. It was a part of the New Tech Network in the past, so I enjoyed a bit of hiring favor on their end. Thus began my journey to really find myself as an educator. It was a tough place to teach at. A lot was expected of teachers at HTH. I rose up to the challenge, but not without trial and error. The seniors of the first year did not like me much because I had replaced their beloved and with it brought some changes. I learned a lot that first year, especially in classroom discipline with our Culture of Respect for Everyone (CORE).
The culture was one of respect, or supposed to be, and if you weren't respectful, you were held to account, teachers included. I did my best to learn the system, which was the hardest part by far, and made it through year one, the hardest one, they told me. I had began to win over the younger students, too, and began to find my niche toward the end of that year.
Year three, the great one. I was one my game in 2010-2011. By the end of the year, our standardized test scores had come up several points to above the district and state averages, and people were beginning to take notice of our system. We were heavily involved with RISC and we were now looking into becoming a Microsoft Mentor School, a fabulous treat. Also, our online reporting and recording system, Educate!, was being looked at by Microsoft for use and publication. The students were focused and on it, and we were cruising. I was also able to teach some of my passions through our intensives program, including Hunter Education, Winter Survival, and Military Strategies.
I had a great time in Seattle, meeting tons of fantastic educators. I was able to get ideas from them and give ideas to them. Best of all (in my mind), I got to compete and show off my work, Combat Fishin'! We came to the gala dinner on night three, and to my surprise, I was announced as the First Place project for Extended Learning! A great cap to a great teaching year. I am now preparing or the WorldWide Forum which is in Washington DC during November 7-10, 2011.
Currently, I am not teaching, though. My wife had a child in March, 2011, and we had a decision to make: her work as a Physician or I work as a teacher and she works part time as a Physician. It came down to one thing, prayer. I felt as though I was better served raising our children than allowing somebody else to do it for us. A tough decision, no doubt, but the best one for my family. My wife and I are searching for a permanent home now, but rest assured, that I will stay involved in education the rest of my life!