Robert Miedema: Teaching What He Loves
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Students work hard on their projects. Machinery hums and whirrs. Computers with complex CAD drawings are spread throughout the room, ready for work. This is just part of what might be seen walking into teacher Robert Miedema’s room, a place that offers classes not found anywhere else in the school.
Miedema teaches Woodshop, Engineering, Architecture, and Gone Boarding, and this is his 15th year teaching. For students who spend their days with their faces in textbooks or studying for that test next hour, Miedema’s classes provide a much more hands-on experience and a welcome break. Students passionate about engineering, woodworking, architecture, and more can pursue these subjects in Miedema’s classes.
Although Miedema is now teaching, it wasn’t originally his plan. Out of high school, he planned on being a plumber and not going to college, and didn’t take an ACT. However, after working full-time for his first summer out of high school, Miedema decided to take night classes at GRCC.
“The only class I really liked in high school was drafting, which is like what we do in engineering, but back then it was all pencil and paper. I took some classes here and there while I was working full time, and I had a really good teacher in college,” Miedema said. “He came out of industry, so everything I learned in my drafting class had some tie to how things worked in the real world. It was a CAD class, and I thought ‘Maybe I could teach this stuff.’”
After 2 years at GRCC, Miedema decided to transfer to Western and get his teaching certificate, to teach drafting. While he was at Western, he found out that under Michigan certification he needed to be able to teach other classes such as woodshop and metalshop in order to teach drafting. Miedema had to take those classes at Western in order to teach drafting, and found new passion in those subjects.
“I get to teach what I love to do,” Miedema said.
Being able to teach something he enjoys and does himself makes teaching the “perfect job” for Miedema. Through spending time with his students helping them through projects and complex work, Miedema is able to teach students as not only a teacher, but a practitioner of his material.
“[My favorite part of teaching] would have to be the kids. They’re fun. You have your good days and your bad days, but teaching keeps me young and keeps me connected with people,” Miedema said. “I get to teach them from my life experiences, and I learn from them. Being able to teach what I Iove to do makes teaching the perfect career for me, and I really love it.”
Miedema teaches the way he lives. He fixes everything himself, and does hard work when it needs doing. He fixes his own car, he has remodeled his house, and he works on his house on the weekends. He even makes his own maple syrup in the spring, tapping up to 20 trees. Miedema teaches the same hands-on work he does on a daily basis.
Miedema believes that his classes don’t stop when class is over, however. He feels and hopes that what he teaches will help in everyday life, and help kids out no matter what they’re doing.
“I think what I teach has a lasting impact, more so than a lot of other classes. The kids have this hands-on work component that’s in every one of my classes, [which] they don’t always get it other classes. It helps them in the real world when they have deadlines, when they have projects to be done and teamwork to be done together,” Miedema said. “I feel like kids will look back and think, ‘I learned that. I learned that in Mr. Miedema’s class.’ That motivates me [because] these kids are going to take these skills and this information and use that, whether it’s in a white-collar desk job or a blue-collar construction job.”
Miedema is far from a normal teacher; he truly teaches what he loves and does, and teaches it the way he does it himself. His passion shines through his teaching, and he remains dedicated and devoted to his students.
With his teaching carrying on out of the classroom and helping with everyday life, Miedema hopes that any student, whether they’re interested in a class or just has a free elective, comes down to his room and takes a class.
“A lot of kids come through my door and say they’ve never been in my room before. That always hurts a bit,” Miedema joked. “I wish more kids could come in here and have an opportunity to take a class, so if they can squeeze in an elective before they graduate, I believe they’ll be a better person because of it.”