By Noah Mintie, Current Staff
The complex math of engineering is difficult, but equally difficult is managing a classroom in your first year of teaching.
The West Bend High Schools have a flourishing tech ed department with many great teachers, and the newest among them is Nick Schauer, who left the engineering field to teach tech ed at West High. After student teaching with East instructor Jacob Gitter last year, this year marks his first as a full-time teacher. Schauer hit the ground running by teaching four different classes and managing the Dungeons and Dragons club.
With so much on Schauer’s plate, the Current is grateful that he was willing to take some time to answer some questions about what his busy first experience was like. This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
On the first day of school, were you excited, stressed, or both?
Both. I mean, mostly, I was okay. I was more worried about a week from the first day than the first day. I mean, I’m always okay taking it one day at a time, and thinking too far into the future always stresses me out, but I was excited to start something new.
How do you juggle four classes and a club that are all new to you?
I know how to do this stuff, a lot of it is just organization-wise that’s new. All of the other guys in the department really helped me out. I can go ask them questions whenever and it’ll be okay. The DnD club was just to do something for kids so that they can spend some time doing something productive after school instead of going home and playing video games.
Will you be taking on any more clubs in the future?
I would like to start a first robotics club here, but it’s a lot for me to take on as a first-year teacher, because it’s a massive program. The budget’s at least $20,000. It’s a really good opportunity for kids that are interested in anything in the trades, whether it be engineering or woodworking or robotics, it incorporates everything. It’s like running a small business, and it’s a very cool program.
How hard is it to teach a class if you’ve never taught it before?
It’s really difficult. I think that the hardest part about it is trying to anticipate how the students are going to take it. So is my activity going to last five minutes? Or am I going to need to do it? So it’s really dependent on the students and how much they do, so planning ahead of time is very difficult when I haven’t experienced it before. So that has been a tricky thing to incorporate.
If you could take any of your classes as a student, which would it be?
I would probably take Architecture and Design. The content really interests me and I really enjoy working on a 3D modeling program and drawing is also kind of a new thing for me and I’ve really enjoyed it. If not that, then probably woodworking, because it uses the coolest machines, I think.
What would be your dream class to teach (it can be one that already exists, or an idea for one)?
When I started at college, I’d started as an engineering major, so I did that for a couple of years and I did really enjoy it, but I didn’t think I wanted to do it for the rest of my life. So I think some day I would like to teach the engineering classes, just so I could get back into it and teach something that I’m super passionate about. I’d always had an idea for a robotics class, though. That would be really fun for students to do and learn all about programming and know the design process, while having a physical thing to do.
What is your favorite part of working in West Bend?
My favorite part about my department specifically is that it offers students so many different possibilities. There aren’t many schools that can say that they offer 27 different tech ed classes with eight different tech ed teachers, and teach it to almost a thousand students every single day. So I think that that is a really cool thing about West Bend, that not many other schools have.
You have mentioned that you were an engineering student, and that you enjoy woodworking and construction. How is it different doing these things on your own time versus teaching them?
I think that the main difference is that when I had learned it for myself, I’d never had to imagine that “hey, I’m gonna have to teach this to someone else!” So going back and thinking, “How’d I understand this the first time? How do I help students understand the subject matter?” It’s a little challenging because I have to think back a little farther. I started engineering when I was a freshman in high school, I took engineering and design and all of that stuff. Thinking back on “How did I start all of that stuff? I learned it, how do I help these kids learn it?” I think that’s the big difference, and a joy of working here is seeing that some students develop a passion for it, just like I did, just like how I saw many of my other colleagues do it, getting excited about a project, things like that.
What is one thing you will start doing or change for the next school year?
That’s a tough question, because we don’t really know what we’re teaching next year quite as of yet, but I will most likely be picking up a couple of new classes. I’ll probably be picking up some autos and graphics classes. Again, another nice thing about this department is that I can work here for five years and still be teaching new classes. Even if I taught a new class every single year, it’s nice to just move around. I think something I’d change more is that I would give my students as much time working in a lab and give them as many project-based things as they can do. It’s overall more beneficial.
Which school logo looks cooler to you? The East one or the West one?
I’m partial to the West one. I think that being a Spartan is cool. As a West teacher, I appreciate that. The sun is pretty cool, too.
(Top image: Nick Schauer in his classroom at the West Bend High Schools. Photo by Noah Mintie, Current Staff.)