Mountain Range High School physics teacher Scott Schankweiler loves to get his students thinking. One of the best compliments he can receive is when a student walks into the classroom and says, “It’s your fault I was thinking about physics this morning when the car was sliding on the ice.” Schankweiler checks those kinds of comments off as success.
“The students are only playfully angry with me,” he said. “But I’m changing the way students see the world, and that’s powerful for me and for them. It’s a really cool feeling.”
Schankweiler’s connection with his students hasn’t gone unnoticed. In early September, he was honored as Colorado’s Technology Teacher of the year at the 2013 APEX awards, which recognizes outstanding accomplishments and leadership in technology companies and professionals. Most of the awards are given to Colorado Companies, but one award is reserved for an educational professional.
Schankweiler was nominated by district technology employee Ash Mahajan, and upon winning, Schankweiler was quite surprised.
“I wasn’t even sure if I was going to go to the awards ceremony. But I’m really glad I did,” he said. “I thanked APEX for honoring a teacher at all because education is important.”
Before becoming a teacher, for 10 years Schankweiler was a civil and environmental engineer. He said he enjoyed his time in engineering, but always knew he wanted to teach and be known as the “high school physics teacher.” He’s been with Mountain Range from the beginning when the school opened seven years ago. Currently he teaches geology, physics and forensic science, but does so in a non-traditional way.
Schankweiler uses the flipped classroom method of teaching. Meaning, he posts his lectures online so the students spend their homework time watching the lecture and taking notes and during class, the students work on the lesson problems. He says this technique allows for the students to work at their own pace at home by having the ability to either watch the video again, or for the advanced students, even fast-forward through the video.
“The students do the work in class surrounded by their peers, where they can collaborate and troubleshoot with each other and with me in the room bouncing around to give suggestions and help,” he said. “We still have discussion in class, but it’s very uncommon for me to stand at the board and just write stuff down.”