The NoCO IgnitED Summit, a gathering of educators, business leaders and community members, touched down at Loveland High School Thursday afternoon, a stop on a tour of northern Colorado meant to inspire entrepreneurship and make positive connections.
While there, Mike Pintaric, a robotics and computer science teacher at Loveland High School, gave attendees a tour of the building and highlighted various student projects that have transformed the campus. During the process, participants saw him describe how he makes students care about what they are learning and how he gets them to do something with it.
Pintaric explained to attendees how a grant from OtterCares, the philanthropic arm of Otter Products LLC, helped support two classes that had distinct issues within the school to help each other.
OtterCares was one of the sponsors of the NoCO IgnitED Summit.
âThey both had problems,â Pintaric told the group. âThe math teacher was frustrated because people were not paying attention and were failing. The construction teacher was frustrated because he couldn’t find enough people to take his class. Together, Pintaric said, they offered a course in geometry and construction, which combined the two subjects and gave students credits in both.
âThey saw a problem; they found a solution, âPintaric said.
Other projects he helped guide students to completion included a row of unused lockers that have been pulled out and turned into a collaborative space, complete with benches and whiteboards for students to work on, a former computer lab that has been turned into a podcasting studio; and a collection of paintings commissioned by the Thompson School District Board of Education that now hang in the school board meeting room.
Much of Pintaric’s success, he said, comes from simply asking students and faculty for ideas and then pushing them to act on them instead of letting them remain a theory.
âI think in education we are very good at putting things on paper,â he said. âWe have kids who come up with solutions, say they’re giving a presentation. And then, as educators, we get stuck. We don’t know how to level up. For me, if I can show educators quick wins, then they can see hope and they can see “Oh wait a minute, these artificial rules that might be in our minds might not be rules at all, and we might not have the constraints which we think we have.
The takeaway, according to some participants, was recognition of the importance of funding schools, as well as an appreciation for those who can find solutions even when huge sums of money are not available.
âA lot of vocational and tech education is geared towards equipment and facilities,â said Tom Dodd, principal of Lesher Middle School in Fort Collins, and one of the summit attendees. âEither you have welding machines or you don’t. Either you have manufacturing equipment or you don’t. In a school like Loveland High in a district like Thompson, which historically hasn’t passed tax money on bonds and mills, you need teachers who are going to be creative and make sure that concepts of innovation and professional technological education come to fruition without the shiny new objects. “
Pintaric said his interest in these types of local projects started in 2016 when the Thompson School District did not approve a bond issue. The resulting lack of funding shattered many project ideas, until he realized that some of them were things students could do on their own.
âWhat I want to encourage you all is that things can happen,â Pintaric told the group as they started to leave school. âNo matter what you have, no matter where you are, you can change the learning environment for your children. Is it easy? Nope. Are you going to encounter roadblocks? Sure. But is there something that you can see tomorrow to start thinking about, to start planning to use? “