Ron Wright was the Right Teacher – Celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week

Up until my sophomore year of high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do. Most people can probably say that, in one way or another. “I don’t know what I want to do after high school/college/this job.” I’ve heard hundreds of people say something similar to that phrase, and I have probably said it hundreds of times. My sophomore year of high school altered that, drastically.

In Celebration of Teacher Appreciation - Mr. Wright was the Right Teacher

I was great at math. I was on the fast track to knocking out college trigonometry, statistics, and calculus before I wrapped-up high school, but I didn’t enjoy math. I didn’t like that answers were definite; no interpretation was allowed, only extrapolation. I did enjoy science, though. I loved the uncertainties of chemical combinations, water-bottle rockets, and testing and retesting our local river’s acidity. In the end, guidelines and processes turned me off to practicing science (and the math that coincides), long term. Enter: creative writing.

I had always been an avid reader. I loved the Boxcar Children, Wishbone, and Everworld books. In middle school, I had started writing for me. Poetry, mostly, but I also wound up writing sports and special events articles for our local newspaper. People told me that I had a gift for writing, but it was just an outlet and a way for a bit of cash to wander into my pocket. Mr. Ron Wright changed all of that.

Until Mr. Wright, my English teachers had been comprised of proverbial grammar sticklers and the like. But that very well might have been misperception on my part. I didn’t particularly enjoy writing because of the time it consumed. Writing took thought and concentration. I didn’t want to make the necessary effort to write things that were worth while. I wrote to get emotions out of the way so that I could focus on sports.

Then Mr. Wright introduced me to the type of writing that I now love. Mr. Wright showed me how much power a string of words is capable of producing. I learned the time and energy dedicated to constructing a flowing, full-bodied paragraph of text is worth it. Well worth it. The emotions, persuasion, debate, and story-telling became something that I strived for, and continue to do.

I was gifted such a passion to continue writing instilled in me that my list of prospective professions began to include writing for Rolling Stone and editing for The New York Times, in addition to the professional basketball and football dreams I maintained. I began to submit creative nonfiction pieces to magazines and journals, continued to write poetry, and actually cared about what I was writing for the local newspaper.

In my mind, at the very least, I owe much of this to Mr. Wright. His passion had rubbed off of his usual grey cardigan onto my stupid, wrinkled t-shirt. His methods of teaching, from the way he offered criticism to the weeks we would spend reading each other’s original pieces, gave me what I needed to understand what it would take to write for a living. Then he quit.

My unknowing mentor called it quits at our school before my senior year of high school. I was devastated. Mr. Wright was being replaced by a recent graduate that I didn’t connect with, on any level. I didn’t respect them. I know that as a student (especially one in high school), I never learned a thing from the new teacher because of this immediate distaste. I probably owe the teacher an apology for that (Does this count?), but it wasn’t something that either of us had real control over.

It has been 10 years since Mr. Wright moved on. I don’t remember ever properly thanking him for what he did for me. There were rumors floating around my graduation in 2005 that he was somewhere in our gymnasium, but I never saw him. I owe much more to him then I ever realized at the time.

So, if you see Ron Wright, his salt-and-pepper (or… all salt, at this point) beard, laughter-filled eyes, or caring smile, let him know that DJ says thank you. Thank you for helping me realize my potential as a writer. Thank you for letting me in on the secrets of enjoying what you do. And thank you for showing my how much life comes through a pen.

In Celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week

teacher appreciation It’s Teacher Appreciation Week, so I want to mention three teachers who were extra-special to me.

In elementary school, my second grade teacher, Mrs. Helen Harrod, was a wonderful role model.  I knew, on the first day of school, that we would get along well because on that first day, she bonked a little boy who had talked back to her, right on the top of his head with her knuckles which were covered in large rings.  Ouch  But that little boy was a model of perfection all the rest of the year.  Mrs. Harrod let me stay after school and file things in the alphabetical order I was so proud to know how to do.

In middle school, my favorite teacher was Mrs. Roberts.  If she had a Teacher reading, teacher appreciationfirst name, none of us ever knew it.  It was she who showed me the wonder and coolness of memorizing things.  To this day, when I especially love a poem, song, even a whole novel, I memorize it.  So do my children.  Things that are filed away in our heads are never misplaced or destroyed by a power outage or eaten by a dog.  Mrs. Roberts knew Helen Keller personally.

High school.  Hmmmm.  It has to be Mrs. Pat Endris, who taught sophomore English.  I never saw her sit down.  Ever.  She would pace around and around and up and down the aisles, asking questions and admiring our questions and making us stand up and PROVE IT.

teacher, science, appreciationBut the teacher who inspired me the most, out of all the others, was Dr. Edward Jenkinson, of Indiana University.  He is one of the foremost experts on censorship and young adult literature, and finding the science in “A Child’s Garden of Verses,” and he is the reason I majored in children’s and young adult literature.  I still quote Dr. Jenkinson, and I bought all of his books and display them proudly.

In more recent years, I have come to know and admire our own Steve Spangler, who is a lot like Dr. Jenkinson in that both gentlemen are firm believers in “bringing it to the supper table,” for when students can’t wait to share their day’s learning, the lesson was a success.

Steve Spangler also taught me that if I blow something up in the classroom, even pronouns will suddenly seem interesting.  This philosophy works.  Like a genuine lucky charm, this philosophy works.

All of my teachers have made me the kind of teacher I am today.  Even the poor teachers had a positive influence, but thanks to those excellent educators who guided me along the path until I could let go teacher appreciation, super teacherand make connections by myself, I am an educated person and becoming more so every day.  Nobody is ever educated enough.  When we stop learning,  we’re as good as dead and we need to be buried.  I am so fortunate to have had these good teachers in my life.  SO fortunate.

And so are you.  Let’s take a moment and whisper a sincere “thank you” to all the Mrs. Harrods and Mrs. Robertses and Mrs. Endrises and Dr. Jenkinsons and Steve Spanglers in our lives.

(KaBOOM!)  See?  You’re listening now.

The Teacher That Made a Difference in My Life #ThankaTeacher

It’s no secret we love teachers at Steve Spangler Science. Ask anyone and they will share a story about a teacher who made a difference in their life. Whether it was motivating to rise above, helping to understand a difficult concept or just offering hugs and support at the right time, teachers make a lifelong impact.

#ThankaTeacher Day - Teacher Appreciation. Share your story with us - Steve Spangler Science
In celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week and #ThankaTeacher day, some of our staff members share their favorite teacher memories…

A teacher that created memorable, take note moments in class was my high school calculus teacher, Mr. McKinney. Despite his continuous attempts, could not inspire a love of math in me, but did give me an appreciation. And drilled his message into my distracted high school mind. He was the only math teacher in my entire education, that brought real life into math problems. We didn’t fall asleep during Mr. McKinney’s class…he dressed up as Mr. Roger for one lesson; for another on limits, he danced to “Take it to the Limit” by the Eagles. Even though these lectures were over 20 years ago, and I still remember them. Now that’s a memorable math lesson!
- Susan Wells, Marketing Manager

I was attending Arapahoe High School in 2004. If it wasn’t for Ms. Mckovsky, my senior year English teacher that year, I would have never passed. I was an un-interested kid who just needed a little push. Her hands-on approach taught her students how to make a magazine, while being taught english along the way. Not only did she help me, but she still influences my drive today. Her one-on-one contributions and loving attitude helped me rise above my challenges in life my senior year. Keeping me going even now at 28 with a 3.5 GPA in college. I wish there was a way i could have told her this then. It just took a couple years to really see the influence she had on my life. So thank you Ms. Mckovsky!
- Brian Weiss, Customer Service Representative

My favorite teacher was my High School English teacher, Ms. Julian. What I remember the most about her was how engaged with the class she was. Every day you felt how much she cared about us as individuals. She had very good boundaries with her personal life (we all thought she was covered in tattoos from her days as a biker – but we would never know), and yet was very open with her thoughts and enjoyment with the world around her. She brought in little tidbits of nature (cool rocks or tree knobs) that she rotated in and out of the classroom. As a student I often lumped my teachers in the category of “people I can’t relate to” – focused only on one aspect of my education – she did not fit into that category. Even when she had bad days, she was good at communicating her expectations of us so that we felt comfortable abiding by them, and somehow that communication made her even more relatable. Ms. Julian was the kind of individual the you could not compare to any other. Wholly unique, honest, and true to herself, she actively inspired us to be as well.
- Anne Rimmer, Product Manager

I was truly blessed to have so many amazing teachers and have good memories about all of them. My third grade teacher really stood out and still does to this day. I really connected with Ms. Boyes and thought she was the greatest person I had met in all my eight years. A few years later when she changed her name to Mrs. Parmely, I was honored to be a candlelighter in her wedding. When I was in high school, I spent a few weeks with her family in Washington as a nanny. We’ve kept in contact through the years and even met for coffee when she was in town.
- Susan Wells, Marketing Manager

We will be sharing additional #ThankaTeacher stories this week on our blog. Who was the teacher in your life that made an impact? Share your story in the comments below.

3D Printing: The End of Manual Labor?

Robots and other automated, mechanical beings have been a staple in science-fiction for a very long time, finding their first mentions in the ancient world. At the onset of the 21st century, however, robots became much more than an idea in a sketchbook. Robots are now a very real part of the modern world.

The world of robotics has seen its share of successes and failures (see Roomba and Asimo for examples of each, respectively). Many of the most notable applications of robots can be found on production lines: automotive, furniture, and food, to name a few. That brings us to the topic at hand, 3D printing.

Get it? (http://bit.ly/1iJOweL)

3D printing isn't, by strict definition, a form of autonomous robot, but the application of the technology is very similar to those listed above. 3D printing has the ability to completely change the world as we know it. Imagine houses, cars, guitars, furniture, or entire body parts printed at exponential rates and for a fraction of the cost. Every field from industry, to medical, to leisure would be altered by mass adoption of 3D printing.

Therein lies a (possible) dilemma.

3D printing has the possibility of putting an already weak job market into further turmoil. Manual human labor would fall to the wayside as a method of accomplishing things from days gone by. Why purchase some do-it-yourself furniture when you can by a 3D printed armchair for less than half of the price at a furniture outlet. This scenario is very possible, and approaching way faster than a hungry Roomba.

I guess my main question is this: where do we draw the line?

Looks small, but it's just the beginning of his full-scale model of 2nd century Rome. (http://bit.ly/1eqysOh)

We are a society with an astoundingly weak ability to define and maintain boundaries, especially when it comes to quality of life. 3D printing may have the ability at increasing quality of life for many, many people through ease of access and low cost, but what of men and women that earn through manual labor? When do we stop progress from becoming too overbearing?

3D printing isn't something that seems inherently evil or corrupt. There are many, varied, amazing things that 3D printing can accomplish. The capabilities that are being discovered and put to use, what seems like, every week are absolutely astonishing. But, the risk is large, too. A balance has to be found and consistently enforced between automation and manual, human accomplishment. 3D printing can, and probably will, be one of the greatest human accomplishments of the early 2000s, but it also has the possibility of being a last, fatal, 3D printed straw on the proverbial camel.

Look Up! The Night Sky is Full of Awesome!

Does this look like a Big Bear (Ursa Major) to you?
Does this look like a Big Bear (Ursa Major) to you?

You don’t need a big, strong telescope to see wonders in the night sky.   All the ancients had was their eyes, and since the air was unpolluted and without the interference of electric lights, they could see quite a lot up there.  I’ve often thought that the ancients must have been able to see a lot more stars in the constellations, because none of them looks much like its name these days.  These ancients, with only their eyes, charted and mapped the sky, and did it so well that we are still able to use these same charts and maps. We also still use the names the ancients gave to what they saw in the sky.

Add to your eyes a pair of binoculars, and your night sky wonders will increase more than you could ever imagine.  Those first telescopes, remember, weren’t nearly as powerful as those pink Happy Meal binoculars on the floor of your van.  If you have powerful big-boy/girl binoculars, all the better.

Without a telescope – with just binoculars – you’ll be able to see several of Jupiter’s moons, and Saturn’s rings (if it’s turned the right way) and Venus & Mars as discs, not just dots.

Remember how to spot a planet:  they don’t twinkle as stars do.  Only objects that shine with their own light will twinkle; the objects that shine with reflected light will just shine; they won’t twinkle.  Think about it: a twinkling moon would be more than just a little bit scary!

I used to be a little girl who sneaked outside late at night to lie on top of the car and scan the sky with those very same pink plastic binoculars.

Thank you, Santa, for granting my only wish that Christmas.  I still have the telescope; it’s leaning in the corner in the living room.  Thank telescope, Spangler Sciencethe elves for me, too; they did a great job.

So yes, I have known what it feels like to have a genuine wish come true.  While other little girls crossed their fingers and shut their eyes and hoped for Barbie under the tree that year, all I wanted was a telescope.  And I got it.  I can still remember the sensation of realizing my wish had been granted.

And with it, I could watch the universe, unfolding, closer and clearer than ever.  It’s not all science, you know.  It’s everything.  Science just helps us make sense of it.