Teacher Feature: Charlie Goetzinger, Jefferson High School

Open dialogue helps students engage in learning

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Jefferson High School science teacher Charlie Goetzinger loves teaching advanced science students, where “every kid wants to be there to learn.”

But working in the school’s BlendED Academy, where a variety of students work at their own pace, can be more rewarding.

“You can take kids who aren’t engaged or don’t have a love for school, and get to know what makes them tick,” Goetzinger said. “And they go from not being engaged to asking questions.”

That leap often starts with an open dialogue between Goetzinger and his students, he said, and leads to his having a better understanding where they are emotionally. Maybe the one resting his head on his desk does care about the material, he was just up all night dealing with something at home.

“They’re stressed that day, so rather than jumping on and attacking them, you start to have more of an understanding,” he said. “And you can work through the issue.”

Goetzinger, 28, earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from Coe College and has taught at Jefferson High for seven years. He is originally from Dubuque.

The Gazette is featuring Goetzinger as part of an ongoing series spotlighting educators in the Corridor. To nominate someone to be featured, send an email to Molly Duffy, K-12 education reporter, at molly.duffy@thegazette.com.

Q: Name a few things you always have on your desk.

A: I always have a copy of the schedule, a black Pilot G2 pen, an education-related book that I am reading at the time and student papers.

Q: What are a few of your favorite lessons to teach?

A: I really enjoy teaching anything related to astronomy. The specific lesson depends on the students and their interests; the more interested they are, the more enjoyable the teaching experience. One set of lessons that I have always enjoyed teaching are the history and future of space exploration.

Q: What’s the funniest thing a student has ever said to you?

A: That I look like Drake. I don’t see it, but that carried on throughout the entire school year.

Q: What’s one of the harder conversations you’ve had at school?

A: Anytime as a teacher you promote trust and relationship building, students tend to open up about all sorts of things. Many times they talk about issues in their life both inside and outside of school that can be heartbreaking at times.

Q: What would you be doing if you weren’t a teacher?

A: That’s a great question, and I honestly have no clue. I enjoy what I do and can’t see myself doing anything else. I recently finished my master’s program for PK-12 principalship, so I suppose that would be a logical answer. If we are talking about outside of the educational world, then some sort of construction-type job. I love to stay busy and enjoy being hands-on.

Q: What’s the latest you’ve stayed at school?

A: Probably 1 a.m. or so, but that was when I used to coach football here at Jefferson and we would stay and talk after a Friday night game.

Q: What’s something your students probably don’t know about you?

A: That this work goes home with me every night. I think I tend to drive my wife crazy when I constantly talk about school or the BlendED Academy at home. When you are invested in your students and their success, it’s sometimes hard to let it go once you walk through the door at home.

Q: What do you enjoy most about your age of students?

A: Their vast differences, experiences and even opinions. I enjoy taking a group of students with all different backgrounds and making them mesh together to reach a common goal.

Q: Who was your favorite teacher when you were a kid? Why?

A: My favorite teacher was Brian Kuhle, who is now the (athletic director) at Hempstead High School in Dubuque. I had him for a class called British literature. I hated English and language arts back then. He managed to make the class enjoyable and engaging simply by building relationships and showing that he cares about the students. I still talk to him regularly to gain insight and bounce things off of him.

l Comments: (319) 398-8330; molly.duffy@thegazette.com

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