John Yeates teacher headed to Washington

Published 10:20 pm Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tim Kubinak hopes to learn new ways to inspire his students at a special program in Washington, D.C. In his classroom, Kubinak prepares a tangeram puzzle, which he says teaches about fractions.

A John Yeates teacher hopes to return from the 2012 Siemens STEM Institute Program with new ideas he and other teachers at the middle school can use to inspire students in the classroom.

Tim Kubinak, who teaches sixth-grade math, is one of only 50 teachers nationwide selected to attend the program outside Washington, D.C., from July 29 to Aug. 3.

He was chosen for the honor after an application process that included references from his principal and teacher colleagues and creating a short video detailing how the experience might impact his classroom instruction.

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“It’s only two minutes long,” Kubinak said of the video. “We had to get our point across pretty succinctly.”

Kubinak and other institute fellows will have the opportunity to discuss their teaching methods with leading scientists and other personalities and innovators whose work incorporates science, technology, engineering and math.

“We get to meet with engineers and Discovery Channel bigwigs and get to see how technology can help our STEM instruction,” Kubinak said.

He hopes the information he comes home with will expand his own teaching skills and those of other teachers at John Yeates Middle School.

“Having 50 teachers that all have the same desire to learn and that have their own unique experiences — the networking aspect is incredible,” he said.

“(I hope to take home) exercises and technologies that we can bring to the classroom.”

Kubinak said he fell into teaching math by accident.

He initially studied wildlife science and changed careers to teaching after being laid off from his first job with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“About a week before school started, they said, ‘You will be teaching math,’” he said.

“The first few days were tough, but I realized this is my calling. I can draw from science, I can draw from technology, I can draw from my colleagues, and it makes it interesting.”

As an example of what happens in his classes, Kubinak said he has students imagine they are riding a rollercoaster.

He gets them to think about that fleeting feeling of weightlessness as the coaster takes a plunge.

“That little feeling of rising out of your seat is a brief feeling of weightlessness,” he said.