Thinking outside the box
Philip Clark believes his experiences traveling the world have enhanced his abilities as a teacher at West Linn-Wilsonville School District's Arts and Technology High School. He even credits his summer teaching as a unicycle instructor.
"Traveling gave me an honesty that is very relatable, especially to kids from Art Tech," Clark said.
Clark has traveled to places like Australia, New Zealand and Peru. He is even working on renovating an old 1952 double-decker bus to make livable.
"I decided I wanted to explore the world and see what's out there first so that I could bring knowledge about the world to teaching," Clark said.
Through Measure 98 — which provides additional funding for high schools to establish career and technical education programs, college-level educational opportunities and dropout-prevention strategies — Clark was hired to teach electronics, programming and tech design at the school about two months ago.
"He brings a great combination of skillsets. He's endorsed in physics and special education so his understanding of the diversity of learning styles and approaches people take to learning is really strong," Principal Saskia Dresler said. "He's creating the condition for all students to be successful."
Clark, a Wyoming native who went to the University of Virginia for physics and philosophy, and then Portland State University for his master's degree in education and physics, said his love for science stems back to when he was a teenager.
He remembers wanting to wire together as many speakers in his room as possible. So he got creative. He realized he could take pencil erasers and stick metal thumb tacks in it to use as a wiring point for all the speakers.
"I remember being surprised at how happy and good I felt coming up with a creative solution," said Clark, adding that his desire to teach came from his excitement about science and technology. He wanted to share his wealth of knowledge and have others be excited too.
"I've always been interested in electronics, taking things apart, seeing how they work. I think that's my driving force, I just want to know how everything works," he said.
So when a professor at PSU informed Clark of the job opening at Art Tech — his first teaching job aside from instructing unicycling at a performing arts camp in California during summer — he knew it was going to be a dream job.
"This is a very needed important thing in the schools and it feels good to be doing something that's needed and that I also feel passionate about," Clark said. "I think Art Tech kids are some kids that would benefit the most from having these experiences."
With grant funds, Clark was able to create a makerspace — a place where students can create, and use tools to build and think outside the box. This new addition to the school is — though in its beginning stages — filled with technology like drones, laser cutters, 3-D printers and more, providing a hands-on experience for students.
"A lot of kids were relieved that there were finally some more technology classes," Clark said. "I just want to give students options."