Getting to know Nathan Mentzer

This story was originally posted on 9/20/10.

His title: assistant professor of industrial technology

His first-year transition: Nathan and his family moved to the “big city” of West Lafayette in the fall of 2009. For someone who had previously worked at a small school district of 500 students (K-12) in western Montana, it was a pretty big transition. Lucky for Nathan — a strategic hire in P-12 STEM — he received a lot of support from his colleagues and the community to make the adjustment. “As a first-year person in an existing system, you have to move and adjust. It took time for me to transition into the culture. Going into the second year will be easier,” he says.

My love of teaching: The teaching/learning environment is my love, regardless of the setting. As an educator of teachers now, I’m hoping these students can have substantial impact on their students and the direction they go.

My second-year focus: I am working on a half-million-dollar proposal through the National Science Foundation to incorporate student engineering design thinking in four high schools across the country. I am also working on a proposal to link 15 native Alaskan villages to a regional technical high school for wind energy education. This summer I went to Nome, Alaska, to network with the director of the regional technical high school, wind farm developers and the director of a community campus.

My goals: I’m trying to understand technology education better. Its role in the K-12 system is constantly evolving. I would like to be known as a person who has helped shape the role of technology in the K-12 environment. I really see a technology class in the schools as a place to learn math and science principles and provide a context for the rest of the student’s day; take what we learned to solve problems that meet our needs. There’s a demand from students to see some relevance. We are in the ideal situation to provide that.

My life: I enjoy camping and hiking, making biodiesel for my vehicles, making beer, riding my bike to work (every day for the past six years) and spending time with my wife and three children, including a three-week-old daughter.