Getting to know Technology and Engineering teacher Chris Donaldson
Pathfinder: What got you interested in teaching?
Donaldson: “I had a few stand-out teachers in high school and college. What struck me is how they were able to take complex concepts, break them down into smaller, more manageable chunks and help students learn in a variety of ways.”
What class(es) do you teach?
“I teach technology and engineering classes. This year, classes include: Robotics Technology I, Introduction to Engineering Design, Principles of Engineering and Design and Technology I.”
Is this your first year teaching?
“No, this is my 11th year teaching in public schools.”
Did you previously teach at a different school?
How is West different from that school?
“The building culture and student ownership through staff support is what stands out most to me. Evidence of students walking out the West High community principles—capable, curious, altruistic, responsible, caring and confident—are all around us.”
Are there any teaching strategies you are using at West that you learned at your previous school?
“Yes, problem-based learning is a strategy I utilized in my previous school and will continue to implement at West whenever possible. It involves presenting students with an open-ended problem based in a real-world scenario, where they need to work together to develop a solution.”
Why did you decide to teach engineering/robotics?
“I thrive on empowering students of all ages and promoting STEM education. I enjoy helping students learn life skills. More than anything, I enjoy growing students’ design and problem solving skills.”
If you could teach another subject, what subject would it be and why?
“If I could teach another class, it would be digital media classes. I thoroughly enjoy using the Adobe Creative Suite (e.g. Photoshop and Illustrator). I have used the tools in industry and in previous teaching positions, and find high value in students having these skills from the design (i.e. artistic/creative) and communication aspects (e.g. marketing).”
Are there any challenges you are facing while teaching?
“Yes, in Technology and Engineering education, there is a wide range of STEM tools and resources utilized in the classroom—from hardware, such as robotics systems and 3D printers, to software, such as 3D modeling and coding. Some of my greatest challenges are to optimize my classroom spaces to foster rich learning environments, identify program development opportunities and to meet students where they are in their experience and interest levels.”
How have you overcome them?
“These are great, rewarding ongoing challenges. It’s been a team effort and phased process that I’ve taken on with the help of district staff, building admins and even student cadet teachers and student aides.”
What are you most excited for about your class/this year?
“I am most excited to see students try new things, build skills and develop strengths they may not have previously realized they had (e.g. technical drawing, troubleshooting, etc.)”
What are your goals for this year?
“My overarching goals are to build positive relationships with students and staff and to positively impact students’ attitudes toward STEM concepts, classes and career choices.”
What is your favorite thing about West so far?
“I have to say the support. West High and my experiences so far would not be the same without the outrageous support I’ve received from Dr. Mitchell, other admins, the secretarial team and counseling staff.”
What is one fun fact about you that you want the students to know about?
“I once rode the Natchez Trace by bike with my father. We rode 450 miles in five days from Jackson, Miss. to Nashville, Tn. I still enjoy mountain biking with friends and road riding with family. I see riding the full length of the Katy Trail with my wife in my near future.”
How would you like students to see you?
“I would like anyone to see me as a strong example of a good man. We need more good men and women to do the hard work of what’s right at home, on the job and in the community.”