Engineer-Turned-Teacher Draws from Real-World Experience

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BOAZ, Ala. (WHNT)  -  Before beginning his 17-year teaching career, Boaz Middle School science teacher Joe Milner was an engineer, and before that, a biologist. He even has a master's degree in engineering. But he gave up those career opportunities to become a teacher and better care for his children, and by doing so, found his true calling.

He is this week's Tools for Teachers award winner and recipient of $319 to spend in the classroom.

Mr. Milner now brings his real-world science experience to his science class, which not only makes him a well-rounded teacher, it also gives him ammunition when he's asked the same question that's asked of every math and science teacher.

"When the kid says, why do I need to know this? Well, here’s a couple of examples; I know this for a fact. I've been there," Mr. Milner said.

Milner believes in using hands-on projects -- like building and competing robots -- to supplement traditional lectures and make abstract concepts more tangible.  When assigning these projects, he gives the students a certain degree of autonomy, without prior assurance of success. Because failure can be an important lesson in itself.

"If you’re not allowed to fail, then what are you really doing? You’re not doing anything ," Milner told us.  "I would like to give them the idea that they’re going to have to finish whatever job they've got to do; they've got to take care of that and do it on their own."

If you know a worthy teacher, coach, principal, or aide, tell us about them through the Tools for Teachers nomination form.

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