By Sherri Coner
When an educator’s personal mission centers around constantly expanding their own knowledge while providing students with amazing learning opportunities, that educator is not only noticed but also honored.
So it is no surprise that Bret Schulz, Center Grove High School’s Project Lead the Way teacher and Engineering & Technology Department Chair, was recently named Teacher of the Year by the Air & Space Forces Association.
As a child, he was mesmerized while watching his dad operate a radio-controlled aircraft, Schulz explained.
When an opportunity to build an aircraft of his own eventually came around, Schulz immediately knew which direction his future was headed.
”I had a passion for building and flying and sharing aerospace,” he said.
After graduating from Ball State University, Schulz accepted a position in the technology department at Franklin Central High School.
During that eight-year stretch, he completed a master’s degree in special education then switched to teaching for three years in special education classrooms.
“This time allowed me to learn the art of teaching while incorporating aerospace into the curriculum,” Schulz said.
Another career step came soon after that.
“In 2014, I transitioned to Center Grove High School to teach the national curriculum of the Project Lead the Way’s Aerospace Engineering course.”
As class interest expanded and students exhibited interests in specific areas, Schulz began to realize that he not only wanted to keep them excited and interested in the topics, but he also wanted to introduce them to the ways aerospace engineering translates into careers.
He started reaching out to the community, forming relationships at Endress+Hauser, Republic Airways, Greenwood Municipal Airport and the LIFT Academy and many others.
After attending the Experimental Aircraft Association air show in 2018 in Oshkosh Wisconsin,
Schulz started applying for STEM grants, so the program had more resources.
“Some of my hobbies and interests outside of the classroom still relate to what I’m doing in the classroom at times,” Schulz said. “I enjoy flying and building radio-controlled airplanes, helicopters, and small unmanned aerial vehicles (sUAV/drones). I enjoy taking and learning about aerial imagery with an sUAV and I’m currently working on my FAA part 107 license to do this commercially.”
Woodworking, completing home projects and working out are also important to him.
But what seems to make this Teacher of the Year even more amazing?
He manages all of these responsibilities and interests around parenting his five children and being present for their individual interests. which range from sports to music to art.
As he nears two decades of teaching, Schulz pays attention to how students grow and change and what they value from their educational experiences. “Over my years of teaching, I’ve come to realize that I’m preparing the students for after high school, but when they look back at their high school career, students don’t reflect on the specific content they cover each day. They reflect and remember those fun flight simulator days or flying sUAVs outside and getting to do that an extra day or even shooting off rockets and one not going according to plan,” Schulz said. “It’s these moments throughout the school year I capitalize on and practice in my daily life as well with my family.”