Teacher, Swenson Arts and Technology High SchoolBruce Karpe, teaching for the past three years in the Swenson Arts and Technology High School, did not come to teaching through the front door. “Teaching is not my first career. I had been working in the computer industry in Georgia, particularly in networking, but I wasn’t enjoying my job. If somebody’s system was down, I had a hard time trying to care. I was good at it, but I really just didn’t care. So when I saw an advertisement for a teaching job I tried it, and it only took me about a month or so before I realized how much I liked it. I even felt like I was good at it. I do think that I was probably a lousy teacher for the first few years, but I felt as though I was improving.” “Then I left teaching for about ten years, and when I moved to Pennsylvania I began working in a summer program called ‘Upward Bound.’ I had sixty kids in the summer, and I had to teach them science. It was great. That got me into a job in a private school that fall, which gave me a chance to get my credentials through an accelerated certification program [in New Jersey].” Bruce taught for eight years at a school in Newark, but found very little support for his creative approach to science. “So I worked for about a year to get my credentials in Pennsylvania. I taught for a while in the suburbs, but I found that I liked urban schools more, and I got into the Philadelphia School District. I relate to the kids better and everybody seems less pretentious. I like high school. I like the subject I’m teaching. I’ve worked with teachers who seem to hate their kids, hate their jobs. And I keep thinking, ‘Why are you here?’” After teaching for a few years in Philadelphia schools, you can change your school with the end of the year site selection. “The school I ended up at was Swenson. These are kids who are taking some shop classes, learning a profession, and may have some motivation from that. As it turns out, many of the kids come to Swenson not necessarily to learn a trade but because they can get a good education. There are expectations for them, and most of the kids want to go to college. Also, every shop we offer involves a life skill: You are probably going to own your own home one day, so it would be good to be able to fix plumbing or electrical problems. You are going to have to eat your whole life, so knowing how to cook is a good thing. You’ll own a car and should know how to make some repairs.” “However, I’m on the academic side of the school. I teach Chemistry and Forensic Science to eleventh and twelfth graders. I work with their Junior Research Papers and their Senior Projects. My goal is to give them something hands-on to combine their interests with these major academic requirements.”
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