I am beginning a new chapter in my teaching career by moving to Thomaston High School in Thomaston, CT this fall. June 21st was my last day at my latest teaching position at the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering in Newington, CT. I started that program without knowing exactly how it would work out, as I was planning out an integrated STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) curriculum for the first time. I had advocated for such a program at Danbury High School and Ridgefield High School, but it did not work out at either. When the position at Newington was first advertised, I could hardly believe it – they wanted exactly what I had been advocating, an integrated STEM program that featured aerospace as its central theme! I was given the end of the 2014-2015 school year to write the curriculum, plan the facility, order equipment, and set up the academy program. The first students, 25 7th graders, entered the program in the fall of 2015. By the end of that year, we had established an outstanding program – I say “we” because my first attempts with these students needed a lot of adjustment, and they helped me quickly learn what worked and what didn’t. That first class was an amazing group of middle schoolers who I will always remember. The subsequent classes have also been outstanding. Now the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering is an award winning program that can continue with other teachers leading it.
I took the position at the academy understanding that the extended day (students were in class until 4:00 PM), and the long commute (30 miles on I-84 through a major construction project) would make for a long work day. However, these factors ended up being far more serious than I had foreseen. Essentially, my life was split into two incomplete parts. On the one hand, I was at work from morning till evening, but only with students, as my schedule prevented me from seeing other teachers very often, and I missed most teacher and staff social events due to the extended day – this made my life in Newington very socially isolated. On the other hand, my home life was incomplete since I got home too late to eat with my family on many nights or do anything in the evening with anyone. I had always made a point to be home for dinner in the past, and I had volunteered in the evening as a Boy Scout leader for my sons and soccer coach for my daughter for many years – all that became impossible with the new job and the extended hours. Therefore, in the end, I had an incomplete life at work and an incomplete life at home, and neither was connected to the other. This is an unhealthy way to live, so I have made a change to move to Thomaston High School, very close to my home, so that I can live and work within the same area and have a complete life between the two. I share this experience not because I think I have to explain myself, but because I hope it helps other people who similarly feel their lives are split and incomplete.
As for starting a new position at Thomaston High School, I am very excited at the opportunities I will have there to take what I have learned about using an integrated STEM curriculum and applying it at a higher level. I will be teaching physics primarily, as well as math. In every class, I will connect what the students are learning in the physics and math classes. I will also giving them engineering design projects within each unit. Technology will be integrated into all classes as well. Students will not feel they are learning separate subjects, but instead will see how each subject contributes to their understanding of phenomena in the world around us. I also plan to start a STEM competition club where I will offer opportunities for students to compete in various STEM challenges. One competition I hope to coach is CyberPatriot, the nation’s largest cyber security challenge. I had very successful middle school teams in Newington, and I think Thomaston students would benefit from the experience. However, I will let the students pick the competitions they want to enter. I look forward to a great first year at Thomaston!