By Corinne Wnek
“Teacher Feature” is a new column that offers readers a look into today’s classrooms so they can see some of the innovative teaching that is going on by talented educators right here in our communities.
“Students need to become critical and creative thinkers and must not be afraid of leaving their comfort zone to learn,” says Adam Slack, teacher of Robotics and Technical Drawing at Rahway High School.
And he should know. When Mr. Slack starts to talk about some of the amazing projects his students are working on in class, it’s hard to believe that he ever wanted to do anything else but teach.
“I love the outdoors and was introduced to the landscaping business when I worked for a teacher I had in high school who had this side business,” he says. “He would always ask me what I wanted to do with my life and I just figured why not landscaping? One day, after a job, he drove me to Warren County College and marched me straight into the admission office to speak to a counselor. Well, thanks to this teacher, I enrolled and went on to earn two associate degrees there.”
Another teacher then introduced him to Millersville University in Pennsylvania. “Immediately I knew I wanted to be there because they had incredible hands-on technology programs that would allow me to do the things I loved to do,” he says. Two years later, he earned his bachelor’s degree in Technology Education.
“In my class, I try to teach, not only course content, but also life skills,” he says, “because students need to be convinced that they can move forward and go beyond what they think are their limitations.”
Mr. Slack will get to prove his point as his students prepare for the upcoming First Robotics Competition in the spring. This year’s state-wide competition, entitled, Ultimate Assent, focuses on Frisbee throwing by student designed robots. These robots are programmed and manipulated by the robotics students. “The kids really have to think creatively and anticipate opposing moves by their opponents to win.”
Something his students might be surprised to know about their teacher is that Mr. Slack has traveled all over the country when he worked summers as a mechanic for a professional sprint car team, The World Outlaws. “It was pretty amazing working with these professional drivers and a big responsibility to work on their cars. It was an awesome experience.”
In addition to his love for teaching, Adam Slack is an avid golfer and is a co-advisor for the Outdoors Club. “Right now the kids are all excited about an upcoming ski trip and expedition to the Great Swamp,” he says smiling. “I’m very lucky to work for a great district like Rahway which really supports the kinds of things teachers like to do for their students because the administration knows that learning can take place anywhere.”
What advice would Mr. Slack like to give to students? “That’s easy,” he says. “Never be afraid of failure. Be afraid of not continuing and moving forward in your learning. Remember all the early failures of Thomas Edison who never gave up.”
Well said, Mr. Slack.
Corinne Wnek believes that teachers, and the administrators and boards of education which support their work, deserve a big, red apple for doing an outstanding job in shaping our most important commodity, the lives of our children. Her weekly column, “The Writer’s Block,” already appears every Friday in the online edition of this publication.