Faculty Focus: February 2017


Meet Fenwick Science Teacher David Kleinhans.

Educational background:
BS Computer Science Engineering
JD Intellectual Property Law

What did you do prior to becoming a teacher at Fenwick?
DK: I love work. Prior to university, I was an ice cream scooper, bus boy, and owned a window washing business. After university, I worked in the software industry for 20 years. Ultimately, I founded a company with a close friend and we grew that business until we were acquired by Cognos, IBM’s software divisions. I worked at Cognos for 5 years post acquisition running an international business unit focused on financial performance and analytic software.

What are you currently reading for enjoyment?
DK: I just joined a men’s book club with some friends that are also in my fantasy football league. We are reading The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis. Interesting already!

What interests do you pursue outside of the classroom?
DK: I like anything outside and that involves new travel. I love to run, bike, hike, ski, and board in new and old locales. I am also a bit of a greenie and a handyman. This past summer I installed a new deck and solar panels. Fun!

To what teams and/or clubs did you belong as a student?
DK: When I was young, I was on the soccer, wrestling and math teams. Our math team was 12 people. Quite a difference from the numbers Fenwick sees on the math team and on the WYSE and JETS teams. I love how engaged our students are in STEM.

Which clubs/Sports/Activities do you run at Fenwick?
DK: I head up the WYSE team at Fenwick. It is an honor to work with our students and see the extra effort they put forward in early AM meetings and on holidays and weekends. So, proud! We have done well the last few years and even earned a 1st in State title last year. That is quite a testament to all the hard work of the students and their math, English and science teachers at Fenwick.

What quality/characteristic marks a Fenwick student?
DK: Our kids are “Matthew 25” kids. They share wildly different interests in academics and extracurricular activities, but all seem to recognize that we have an obligation of service to each other and those who are less fortunate. I am frequently moved by seeing them interact with each other and their willingness to help those outside the Fenwick community.

When did you decide to become a teacher, and why did you choose this field?
DK: I am thankful to Pat Mulcahy and Kathy Curtin for introducing me to teaching. They allowed me to teach in a summer math program and pinch hit for a physics teacher on an extended absence. I fell in love with teaching and the students. Andy Arellano and Dr. Lordan also helped me understand what was required to be successful in the classroom. Finally, Brigid Esposito and Terrie Vyborny were so generous in sharing their physics teaching skills.

What personal strengths do you find especially helpful in your teaching?
DK: Students like when I bring in donuts!

What do you like most about teaching as a career?
DK: The kids. The opportunity to join other families and the broader Fenwick community …  and, the kids!

What is your philosophy of education?
DK: I am a scientist. Philosophers are interesting and fun but often out of work. My strategy is practice, application and multiple review points.

What is the greatest success you have had in teaching?
DK: Winning the WYSE state competition last year with Mr. Farran, seeing a student complete physics honors after initially dropping the course the year before, watching daily as students fall in love with the symmetry and beauty of physics and seeing CS students become captivated by the elegance of a code snippet are all success. But, the greatest is probably yet to come.

What do you think is the greatest challenge facing students today?
DK: A substantial challenge facing all students is not recognizing the benefits and joy of failing. Trying and failing is called learning. Enjoy the process. The outcomes and rewards go to those with the most experience both failing and succeeding. Find joy in both and in overcoming initial insurmountable hurdles!

How do you motivate your students to become active learners in your classroom? 
DK: I think you can have fun doing serious work. Physics concepts and computer science techniques can initially be inaccessible for many. So, having lots of hands-on activities, sharing stories of how these apply in the business world and exposing students to successful young STEM graduates in our Engineering Eating program help with the student buy in. A good “Feel Good Friday” prayer doesn’t hurt either.

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