“Kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” – Robert Hollwedel, Nominee 2010 Excellence in STEM Teaching Award
The Rochester Area Colleges Center for Excellence in Math and Science is pleased to introduce Mr. Robert M. Hollwedel – a technology education teacher at Alexander Middle/High School – as a nominee for the 2010 Excellence in STEM Teaching Award.
This award is given annually to recognize effective, engaging, and innovative Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) teaching in grades K-12 in the following New York Counties: Monroe, Cayuga, Allegany, Genesee, Livingston, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates.
Mr. Hollwedel, who is also the Co-Chair of his school’s MST Education Department, was nominated for the award by Kathleen Maerten – Superintendet of the Alexander Central School District .
While interviewing Mr. Hollwedel for this article, it quickly became apparent what makes him a phenomenal teacher: he loves what he does. After twenty-seven years as a technology teacher (twenty-six of which have been at Alexander Middle/High School) Mr. Hollwedel still exudes passion for teaching technology.
“My career choice has been extremely positive and exciting,” Hollwedel said, “I’ve learned quite a bit from my students. We’re a team – my classroom is as much my environment as theirs.”
Mr. Hollwedel was drawn to technology while a high school student himself. “I was always a hands on person,” he said, “I always found myself in ‘the shop’ with teachers that motivated and supported me.”
Hollwedel earned his bachelor and masters degrees in industrial arts at Buffalo State, but also has an associates degree in criminal justice from Genesee Community College. He has a special affinity for teaching high risk students. “I have always enjoyed the task of having these students rise to a challenge and find success,” Hollwedel said, “Even those in the high-risk category [can] achieve success in a progressive, purposeful endeavor.”
One such endeavor is the Genesee Community College’s Tech Wars – in which Hollwedel is a founding member and active contributor. Tech Wars allows high school students in the to utilize the “hands on” approach to STEM learning that Hollwedel espouses.
Emphasing teamwork, Tech Wars participants work together to build things such as robots and bridges. This year 330 students from sixteen schools in the GLOW Region (Genesee, Livingston, Ontario and Wayne Counties) competed. “Tech Wars is such a neat, positive program,” Hollwedel said, “It is an awesome place to see kids who did not ever think they could do something engineering related succeed. It is not the win that is important, but the light in their eyes when they make their robot go.”
Deborah Dunlevy, the College Tech Prep Director at Genesee Community College, works closely with Hollwedel on Tech Wars. “Mr. Hollwedel has a passion for teaching that everyone would love to see in all teachers,” Dunlevy said. “Most of the activities I have seen Bob involved in are outside of the classroom and the school day which only emphasizes his dedication to students…he doesn’t have a job; he has a career.”
Inside the classroom, Hollwedel is just as passionate and innovative. In response to the national need to get girls more involved in STEM education and a need he saw in his own school, Hollwedel recently redesigned an elective technology course to make it more appealing to young women. The course – which was formerly an architectural based drafting class, is now called “Designs on a Dime” and focuses on interior design and floor plans for homes and businesses.
Such action exemplifies what Alexander Secondary School principal Shannon Whitcombe wrote about Hollwedel in his nomination letter: “Bob does a great job identifying program gaps and looks for ways to promote math, science and technology courses to all students.”
One student whose life has been changed by Hollwedel is Ethan Willard. Willard, who attends Alfred State, was a student in many of Hollwedel’s classes and participated in Tech Wars under his tutelage. Said Willard, of his Tech Wars experience, “‘H’ [how many students refer to Hollwedel] took a group of kids, some which knew nothing about technology, and gave them something to be proud of and remember.”
Willard also said: “‘H’ is my biggest role model and the reason why I chose to go to college for mechanical engineering technology. ‘H’ was more than a teacher; he was a friend and mentor to all of his students.”
Being a role model and exemplary teacher is not something Hollwedel tries to be and that is part of what makes him great. “I try to be who I am,” Hollwedel said. “Kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Article by STEM Mentors Coordinator Caurie Putnam at firstname.lastname@example.org